Behind the pandemic doors of the NICU

Nurse perspective on Covid19 pandemic at neonatal intensive care unit.

My name is Izabela and I am neonatal and research senior nurse working at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
As a critical care nurse, we are prepared to respond for emergencies. Pandemic is an emergency call but without any training. We were asked to act blindly.

Day by day our workplace and roles has changed. We did not have time to analyse the situation because needed to implement mandatory policies, guidelines. We came out of comfort zone.

I have noticed significant changes:

  • Restriction in visiting for parents (one parent allows to visit 9.39-5.30pm after temp check test passed)
  • The unit has been converted to red zone ITU/ green zone HDU and SCBU
  • PPE is mandatory to all staff working on intensive care site (hot and uncomfortable to work, risk of dehydration, prone to UTI etc)
  • Mask fitting challenge (anxiety and stress, some staff is refusing to work in this place, others are having panic attacks or breathing difficulties)
  • All babies remaining inside the incubators (AGP zone)
  • The surgical unit converted to medical and emergency surgical cot created on NICU ITU as a backup
  • Social distancing is almost impossible while team cooperation needed
  • Back on full clinical shifts d=for any CNS and education, research teams (recruitment is on hold but data collection of remaining participants is ongoing)
  • Every unit in the hospital is converted to Covid and post Covid treatment ward
  • Some of the nurses are redeployed in the mortuary (tremendous impact on traumatic experience)
  • Separation from family/friends
  • Staff sickness /rotations/hospitalisation
  • The pandemic has exposed work intensity in isolation.
  • We are all having families, friends and our own kids.

    Adjustment to patient needs became a priority. This arises from stress and uncertainty. Working on the frontline open a question to many of us how safe we are, how we can protect our love ones and if last will should take place?

    We still questioning if we are ready? For how we can go like that? More question is coming every day but there is no answer for most of them.

    I am delighted to be a research lead on our unit but I do feel useless in this field with Covid19. Scientist across the world are working day and night to protect nations. I only observed that none of the admitted babies tested positive which is very good news. We are trying to understand the phenome of biological protection of newborn.

    As senior staff, we are trying our best to support others: junior nurses, doctors, parents. But we do need to think about our mental health as well.

    We do appreciate public support: clapping, free meals, free car parking, skipping the queue while shopping between shifts, positive wards, emails.

    We learn to stay humble, patient and calm. Because simply, we do have no choice. However, we are pleased that we do have a job as for many of us this is the only income we have. And we all have hope. Hope, that this would not last forever.

    Stay well and safe, Iza