You may recognize Caitlin from Nook's website. She and her family are featured on the Niche Nursing Pillow page. That's right, our models are real people with real families! Not to be confused with nursing (breastfeeding), Caitlin actually works in nursing (healthcare), specifically in intensive care. When the current COVID healthcare crisis hit, we checked in with her to see how she was coping. Caitlin graciously contributed to this blog, and even carved out time for an Instagram Live with Nook.
How long have you been a nurse?
I've been a nurse for six years. It's actually my second career! I taught 8th grade science for five years before going back to school for my BSN. I was not meant to be a teacher and nursing is such a better fit for me! I've spent the entirety of my nursing career in the ICU (intensive care unit) and I thrive in that environment. I'm actually in my final year of grad school to be an acute care Nurse Practitioner, so I'll be staying in critical care longterm.
How has COVID-19 impacted your hospital?
My hospital is one of the designated COVID-19 hospitals in our system, so it's had a pretty big impact on us. We've seen some terribly sick and sad cases in the ICU, but it has also brought to light just how incredible the team is that I get to work alongside. And it has highlighted how many people it takes to make a hospital operate at its best, which I believe we are currently doing. We've had maintenance crews there on nights and weekends, retrofitting patient rooms to be negative pressure so we can safely bed COVID-19 patients. Our chaplaincy team has been ever-present on the unit, for the patients, their families, and for the hospital staff. And our management has gone above and beyond to make sure our unit has enough staff and resources.
What safety precautions are you taking to limit the risk of bringing the virus home?
As far as safety is concerned, I've got a whole new routine to keep my family safe. At work, I wear a surgical mask and scrub cap all day, which was never the case before. If my assignment for the day includes direct care of COVID-19 patients, I'll wear hospital issued scrubs. I change clothes before leaving the hospital. I take off my shoes before getting into my car and they stay in a shoebox. I strip down in my garage when I get home and my clothing goes directly into the wash and I go directly into the shower. I don't see or talk to my family before I've showered. I keep a container of Clorox wipes in my car. I wipe down everything I touch when I get in the car from work or any other outing. I use hand sanitizer meticulously while I'm out and wash my hands countless times during the day.
I've had some of the hardest days of my career during this pandemic, and yet the teamwork I experience has given me hope.
How has it affected the way you parent?
When the COVID-19 pandemic started and schools closed down, that meant my husband was going to be teaching from home and my daughter would no longer have daycare. Her daycare is part of my husband's school district, so as long as schools are closed, so is daycare. Right off the bat, it was a huge adjustment to have her home every day and not be able to take her anywhere. From the time she was an infant and I was on maternity leave, she's been used to getting out of the house and going with me. She's my little sidekick. Now that she's a year and half old, there is so much more she wants to do, and she needs so much more to be entertained. We obviously can't take her to the zoo or the children's museum or on playdates or even to Austin for a quick getaway to see family. It's been a massive adjustment, but it's also forced me to slow down and appreciate this time at home with her. It's time I can never get back, and being a two income household, it's something I never anticipated having. I envision holding on to some of this even as things start to reopen, and scaling back my other commitments to make more time for unscheduled days with my family.
What advice can you give to other families?
The biggest advice I have for others is to be cautious. I know we all miss our friends and families. I haven't seen or hugged my mom in months and it pains me deep in my soul. I know we miss being able to go out and socialize, but I've seen the really sick cases up close and personal. Even the patients who get better have a very tough recovery. They're sick for weeks and we don't yet know the lasting impact of having suffered through this virus. This doesn't mean you need to live your life in a bubble or in fear, but don't rush out yet, either. Continue to practice good hand hygiene. Keep hand sanitizer on you. Avoid touching your face. Stay home if you're under the weather. And please, trust your medical professionals and scientific community! We are working so hard to find a treatment, to develop a vaccine, to treat the sick, to prevent the spread. And all of it comes from a place of fierce love and protection for our fellow community.
What has given you peace of mind during this time?
The families I see playing in their front yards and taking walks. The stories I hear of those who can doing for those who can't. The many, many, many FaceTime calls between loved ones who are miles apart.
The kindness I see every day gives me hope.
We are very grateful for the time Caitlin gave to us at Nook in the midst of a pandemic. We are so thankful for amazing nurses like her, and wish everyone working on the frontlines all the best for themselves and their families!