Coronavirus Diaries: First we had to face our fear. Then we moved mountains.

First we had to face our fear. Then we moved mountains.

by Mikki Robinson, RN

I’ve been a nurse for over thirteen years, and have never seen the kind of teamwork, strength and ingenuity that I’ve experienced at Elim Park over the last few months. Formerly, I worked in ICUs and was originally hired as a nurse in Elim Park Health Care Center’s Short-Term Rehabilitation unit, which I loved because delivering great resident care means everything to me. Once the virus came to Connecticut, I accepted a new role as a supervisor in the Covid 19 unit on our campus. Though I’ve always been proud of my profession, today I have an even greater respect for my fellow nurses who put their own fears aside and focused all their energy on the residents in our care.

We are led by an amazing Chief Nursing Officer, Janice Lexton, and she constantly challenges us to raise the bar. Even before Covid 19 was detected in Connecticut, Janice went into action. She was constantly taking the pulse of the virus and reached out to her network at other senior healthcare centers. We had new protocols and policies instituted almost every day, and were encouraged to be flexible and stay on top of this rapidly changing situation.

We also have great leadership in all the Elim Park management staff. For instance, John Sweeney, our Health Care Center Administrator, searched from town to town throughout Connecticut and even other states to track down and purchase any PPE we would need. That made such a huge difference for us, knowing we had enough PPE to stay safe and effective. Other management staff worked hours upon hours every day, many of them suiting up in PPE and helping sanitize the Covid 19 area. It was really an “all hands on deck” approach that inspired everyone to go above and beyond.

As a nurse, I don’t think of myself as a “hero.” This is just what I love and am trained to do. I made the choice not to give into fearful thoughts and told myself, “I am not getting sick” and just keep my eyes on the residents, literally. With all the protective gear we wear in the Covid 19 unit, residents could often only see our eyes. But you quickly learn that the cliché, “the eyes are the window of the soul” is true. We used our eyes to let residents know we’re here for them and we see them. We wrote our names in large letters on our Tyvek suits so they could tell who we were.

We are also committed to communicating with families. The nursing staff constantly makes calls to family members, keeping them updated — and assures them that their loved one knows they are in caring hands and not alone.

I’m also proud of our team’s willingness to problem solve. The Tyvek suits that we wear have an attached hood that can make the suit extremely hot inside. A friend of mind, Hope, heard about this and designed and made cotton protective bonnets for all the nursing staff. The bonnet allows air on our necks to cool us down while still protecting us. And the bonnets are so colorful! I think the residents enjoyed seeing them, too.

Another reason I am so proud to be part of Elim Park, is that the management team did everything they could to support the well-being of the staff. During the first few months, many of us had to quarantine ourselves from our families. Elim Park rented and paid for rooms at a nearby hotel so that we could rest while keeping our own families safe. Again, above and beyond.

Now, as we’re moving past the crisis of this pandemic, we still remain vigilant in protecting the residents that we love. Visitor restrictions are still in place and we must follow stringent health department guidelines. While this was certainly a difficult and sometimes scary time for all of us, this experience has proven to me that when people truly care for each other, we can move mountains. If there is a silver lining in all of this, perhaps this it.