MCPHS Responds: Jessica Jones, Postbaccalaureate BSN '20
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare workers all over the world have been called upon to face new risks and unprecedented challenges. They have continued to do their jobs—and more—in the most trying of circumstances.
As a healthcare education university, MCPHS has seen students, alumni, faculty, and staff perform bravely on the front lines in a variety of healthcare roles. We want to shine a light on some of these individuals and their work in the time of coronavirus. We encourage you, members of the MCPHS community, to share your frontline stories using the hashtag #MCPHSResponds.
Jessica Jones balances her studies in the MCPHS postbaccalaureate nursing program with her work as a Patient Care Assistant (PCA) at Brigham and Women's Hospital. As a PCA, Jessica performs a wide variety of duties to help nurses and patients; even in normal times, her life is extraordinarily busy.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. Jessica said the early days were very difficult, as protocols seemed to change almost daily and the world struggled to grasp the seriousness of the situation. Contamination fears were very real, and there were questions around PPE and how much contact healthcare workers could have with patients. In fact, PCA's were not initially allowed into COVID-19 patients' rooms. But it soon became clear that more hands were needed, and Jessica didn't hesitate, even with the concerns about infection.
"Taking care of the patients—that's part of my job. I'm supposed to take care of patients. So who am I to say, 'Oh, this person has a disease, and I can't go in [their room],'? I would be tasked with going into any patient's room who has a contagious disease. I try not to look at this so differently."
She says the patients are her first priority, but that another factor motivates her to step up and even take on some night shifts. "There's a lot of anxiety with some of the nurses, especially the older nurses who are immunocompromised, about going into the rooms. I'm young, I don't have a family—I have a dog and a fiancé—and I can limit their exposure. It's not fair to the nurses who are very anxious about possibly getting COVID-19. I feel capable of helping."
That's not to say it hasn't been hard. Not only has wearing the PPE for hours on end made it difficult to breathe or feel comfortable, but seeing the circumstances patients face has been crushing. Jessica says patients are often confused and completely alone, as visitation procedures have been strictly tightened amid the pandemic. "People are out there dying alone, without family, without real support….There are nurses who are giving them some emotional support, and we have them call their families on their iPads or their phones. And their families call them on the hospital phones. But it's just really difficult to rationalize and see that people are alone." It's devastating for the patients and their families, and it's hard for Jessica and her colleagues to witness day in and day out.
But there are stories of recovery and silver linings every day. Jessica says the entire nursing community has come together in a huge way. "We have formed this sense of community. It's kind of like, 'We are here, we're doing this, we're helping each other.' A lot of nurses have really stepped up and helped each other a lot more than we've seen before. We have people coming from different units observing us, making sure we're putting on our PPE, and we've made a lot of great friendships amongst each other, and with the observers from different places… . We've all been bonding and we've all been getting through this whole period as a community more so than ever before."
And not all patient stories are bad ones, even when they come in sick. The hospital does what they can to make it a little less scary. "There were two patients who were actually roommates, so they made the hospital room a double so that they could be together. They were both coronavirus positive. It was actually very sweet."
And when she gets out of work, Jessica says she does feel the gratitude from the public, especially with trends like the #HealthcareHeroes movement online. "But," she maintains, "I don't think that my role has changed. I think all of us are doing our jobs. This is what we're supposed to do."