My Experience Working In A Long Term Care Home During The COVID-19 Pandemic

I was introduced to Plan A by one of my peers who spoke highly of and strongly recommended the agency. As a novice nursing student, I was intrigued by an unconventional and unheard-of employment opportunity. I was extremely excited to start working for Plan A. After COVID delays and completion of the administrative paperwork, I was officially an employee of Plan A Kingston & Quinte in late May. My first job opportunity came when I got the StaffStat notification to start immediately at a nursing home out of town in mid-June. 

This home was in one of the cities hit hardest by COVID-19. My parents were scared and reluctant to the idea of me working away from home and in this region. My bosses, Sarah and Betty, from the Kingston and Quinte branch were quick to reassure me that there was a plentiful amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) available at the home. Should I be unable to access the proper PPE, they assured me that they would take the necessary steps to provide me with this protection. I forwarded this reassurance to my parents and they were more settled. The weekend before I left, I was packing and gathering essentials such as Lysol wipes and hand sanitizer. My feelings were a mix of excitement and nervousness before my departure. 

Upon arrival at the motel, I was greeted by the lovely owners and that was only the beginning of further delightful interactions. My first day was spent learning the ins and outs of the home and countless introductions to staff. Everyone was kind and appreciative of the extra hands to assist with care and activities. There was a sense of family, which only enhanced my first experience working away from home. Not only was I supported at the home, Sarah and Betty would regularly check in and ensure I was comfortable at the home. My experience of working away from home was so comfortable especially with all the readily available help. 

COVID-19 had unfortunately devastated this home. The virus had affected nearly every resident that remained in the home along with the staff. Several of the staff were still in the recovery period and had not returned to work. By the time I had arrived, they were anticipating a second wave, which thankfully did not arrive in my four-weeks that I had spent there and everyone was cautiously moving forward. Visits, activities, and communal meals were slowly resuming, which was a bittersweet experience for the staff and the residents alike. 

Visits were the most challenging task to supervise. The staff, including myself had to act as the “bad guy” to ensure the visitors, which were most of the time the immediate family (wife, daughter, son) maintained social distancing rules while keeping their masks on. When the residents and/or the family did not comply, we had to stop the visit and ask the family to go home. This rule was implemented towards the end of my stay. This rule, although strict and may at times seem cruel, was to prevent another breakout at the already devastated home. The staff cared for the residents as if they were a member of their family whilst maintaining professional boundaries. It was heartbreaking not only for them to end visits but to console the residents afterwards. 

In school, I would be assigned to perform all care on one, sometimes two patients in a six-hour shift. At the LTC home, I would be performing all or most care on a great number of residents. My speed was inadequate at first and I could be described as a chicken running around with its head cut off. I had to increase the speed of my work to ensure that all care was completed at the end of the night. My time management increased drastically by the end of my time on this assignment. 

As nursing students, we are taught the means of engaging in therapeutic discussions. However, some things cannot be taught, and I learned that very quickly while talking to my residents. My residents challenged me to provide emotional comfort and support while I was pressed for time. I had to provide answers while maintaining professional boundaries to difficult questions. I had to provide answers to questions that the same resident would ask me upwards of 100 times in one shift and remain levelheaded. The one certainty I learned while working is the vast differences between what is taught in nursing school and the realities of working in the field.  

Working for Plan A is a refreshing reality. It has made me fall in love with nursing even more. My previous employments were nowhere nearly as rewarding and challenging as working in a long-term care setting. I hope to continue to learn and grow through the incredible opportunities that Plan A will provide. 

~ Abhi Kaur, PSW, Plan A Kingston & Quinte

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