Leading My Team Through Difficult Times

My name is Natalie Daoust. I am co-owner of Plan A Scarborough, but I am also a nurse in the ICU. During the first wave of the pandemic, I was also working on the frontlines and was able to understand the fears my Plan A staff were facing with all of the uncertainty that was yet to come.

This is an email I sent to my Plan A pool of health care professionals in June 2020:

Like most of you, I wear different hats in my everyday life. Last week, I wore my ICU nurse’s hat. The first thing in the morning, after my usual routine, I walked into the ICU with my coffee in hand and my heart sank immediately. My assignment was a COVID-positive patient on a ventilator. For just a moment, my fears were overriding my knowledge. After numerous weeks of training and preparation, I wondered, “am I really ready?” Listening to the report, I learned that this person in front of me was a healthy, active, and strong individual with zero comorbidities…and they were brushing death! Everything the physicians were doing now were simply to save this person’s life. Nurse Nat shows up, and my fears quickly disappear, “I can do this, I’m ready, I know he is positive and therefore I know EXACTLY what to do. I have donned and doffed a million times in my career, and we’ve been practicing, completing mock codes and undergoing countless hours of training”.  I knew I was ready to nurse him/her, but not at all like I was taught long ago. The doors were to remain shut, I was only allowed in the room once a shift…yes, once a shift. “How is that possible?”, I thought — I’m taught to promote skin care, range of motion, mouth care, turn and position every two hours. But yes, an ICU nurse taking care of a ventilated COVID+ patient is told to do “everything” at 08:00, and only enter if “ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY”. This was one of the hardest shifts I have ever had. I have had patients pass away, families crying, children holding on to life in my care, but yet, THIS was incredibly hard. I felt helpless, watching my patient for 12 hours through a glass door — it killed me. My shift ended and my safety, my colleagues’ safety, and the patient’s safety was preserved. I was going home, but I was worried. After my shower and all the disinfecting I completed daily after I get home from work, I wondered, “Do I kiss my kids? Sleep next to my husband?” I ultimately came to the decision that yes, I should. Why? Because the knowledgeable side of my brain took over: “I did everything I was taught, I’m fine, I need to trust myself.”

I had him/her for four days, and happy to report that he/she was extubated safely on day two, up in a chair by day three, and pivoting and standing by day four. I was even honoured to be the person who transferred him/her from the ICU to the floor. This person was better. We saved them. Since this day, I have cared for many COVID-probable patients and took care of another COVID-positive patient. Am I scared? Yes, but not for caring for those who are positive/probable, because I know their status. I’m scared of the ones I don’t know about. 

My experience with this has given me the ability to comfort you, make you aware, and help you navigate your feelings and the fears you are having during this time. You are a health care professional, and at any time in your career, you may have directly cared for a person with an infectious disease without even knowing it. Don’t fear caring for these residents, fear those who are careless, those who are not social distancing. Be aware and protect yourself at all times, be safe, wash your hands, wear a mask, go directly home after your shift, shower for 20 minutes, then HUG YOUR FAMILY and GET SOME REST. Where there is a beginning, there is ALWAYS an end. 

Please take care of yourselves, call us to talk if you need support, be strong and most of all, BE SAFE.

In sending this email to my staff, I wanted to remind them of the reality we were, and still are facing. I wanted them to remain vigilant, to understand that they were fully capable and competent in these situations, and to trust in themselves. They are making a tremendous difference in the lives of so many every single day. I am so incredibly proud of them.

~ Natalie Daoust, Co-owner, Plan A Scarborough

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