Nurses at the Cowichan District Hospital are thanking the community for following the health protocols during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Pictured from left are nurses Jacqueline Kendall, Melissa Bustard and Heidi Ferris. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Nurses at the Cowichan District Hospital are thanking the community for following the health protocols during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Pictured from left are nurses Jacqueline Kendall, Melissa Bustard and Heidi Ferris. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Still in this together: Island nurses finally see light coming after a year like no other

May 10-16 is National Nursing Week, giving pause to reflect on the pressures of a pandemic

Heidi Ferris lived downstairs in her family home alone for a month when the COVID-19 pandemic began last year.

Ferris, an emergency nurse at Cowichan District Hospital with 12 years working in her field, said she was concerned she would bring the virus home to her husband and two children, aged nine and 10.

“I used to strip out of my clothes immediately when I got home from work, even though we wore protective uniforms while at the hospital,” she said.

“I would just wave at my family from the bottom of the stairs and cook on a hot plate. Fortunately, we have learned a lot more about COVID-19 since then and I’m living with my family again in my house, but it was a very difficult time.”

Similar stories are being shared by nurses across the country as National Nursing Week, May 10-16, is wrapping up acrosse Canada after a full year of the pandemic.

RELATED STORY: FUTURE NURSES, DOCTORS WANT LESSONS FROM PANDEMIC TO CREATE BETTER HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM

Jacqueline Kendall, another nurse at CDH who has 14 years of experience in her profession, said the past year had her, and many colleagues, stretched to the limit both in their professional and personal lives.

She said she shares a farm with her parents and young daughter and she was also terrified in the early days of the pandemic that she would bring the virus home from work.

“My mother has asthma and other health conditions, and that added to the extra stress we were feeling at work in the early days of COVID-19,” Kendall said.

Melissa Bustard, an emergency room nurse and coordinator of site operations at CDH, said she and her husband began sleeping in separate bedrooms and had devised back-up plans for any worst-case scenarios during the pandemic, like her moving to a hotel if necessary to protect her family. The nurses said the stress at the hospital when the pandemic began was bad enough, without also having to worry about the impacts on their families.

“The hospital’s staff were in a constant state of urgency waiting for a major influx of patients at any given time that hasn’t yet happened, other than a small surge in January,” Ferris said.

“We’d like to thank the community for dong their part, following the health protocols and staying at home, which kept the number of cases at the hospital way down compared to other areas.”

Bustard said another problem nurses and hospital staff across the province, and elsewhere, have been facing since the pandemic began is people coming to the hospitals and claiming the pandemic is not real.

RELATED STORY: B.C. NURSES ISSUE PLEA FOR ALL TO FOLLOW HEALTH ORDERS AS HOSPITALIZATIONS SPIKE

She said the pandemic deniers claimed that the hospital staff were “sheep following lies”.

“I saw this at the West Shore Urgent Primary Care Unit in Langford when I was working there, and I’ve seen it at the CDH as well,” Bustard said.

“Security had to be called sometimes. Then there are those who refuse to wear masks or answer questions about any possible exposure to the virus, and some even throw things at staff when they get angry.”

Kendall said some nurses couldn’t handle the stress and pressure during the past year and have taken stress leave, while others have opted to go into public health where many became involved with administering the vaccines and have less interactions with sick people.

As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the community gets closer to herd immunity, the nurses are giving a sigh of relief, although they are wary of what the future will bring.

Kendall said she thinks it’s unlikely the virus will be completely eliminated, but it will be much more manageable in the future.

“We’re just keeping our fingers crossed that another pandemic doesn’t start anytime soon,” she said.

Ferris said the nurses and the other professions at the hospital appreciate the efforts made by the provincial Public Heath Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to educate the public and contain the pandemic in B.C.

“Dr. Henry was suddenly thrown in a position that she didn’t expect to be in and she did well,” she said.

“What she said was heartfelt. We’re now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It will be just a little longer before we finally achieve herd immunity and, hopefully, return to normal.”

RELATED STORY: ABBOTSFORD NURSE AT ‘BREAKING POINT’, PLEADS WITH PUBLIC TO TAKE COVID-19 SERIOUSLY

But Ferris said she believes that some practices at the hospital developed during the pandemic won’t be going anywhere soon.

“We’ve learned some lessons about the need for personal protection equipment due to our heightened awareness of infection control,” she said.

“I think that, from now on, hospital staff will always wear a mask when interacting with patients.”

Kendall said the Cowichan community has done an amazing job so far during the pandemic, and offered thanks for all the support the hospital received during the past year.

She also questioned the wisdom of just honouring nurses during this week and acknowledging their heroic efforts during the health crisis.

“It should be shared with all health care workers and be called Health Care Week,” Kendall said.

“The physicians, housekeepers and everyone else should be celebrated too. We are all in this together.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Healthcare

Just Posted

Kimberly Bussiere and other laid-off employees of Casino Nanaimo have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Laid-off Casino Nanaimo workers launch class-action lawsuit against corporation

Notice of civil claim filed on April 6 at Supreme Court of B.C. in Nanaimo

Al Kowalko drives Sooke School District’s first electric bus that began operation in May. The board decided on June 15 that all future buses will be electric, asking the province for more funding to support the program. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Sooke school board agrees to make all future buses electric

Board to ask province to increase funding to cover the extra up front cost

Camper the dog was found Wednesday night by someone walking their own dog along Hollywood Crescent. She had gone missing after a violent attack on June 11. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Camper the dog found safe after fleeing violent van attack in Victoria

Camper was found on Hollywood Crescent Wednesday night

A lift on marine border restrictions by next summer would bring an economic gain to Greater Victoria through the cruise industry. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich calls for opening of marine borders by summer 2022

Council to ask feds to end restrictions in time to allow planning for next cruise ship season

Rendering of the proposed design for the new public safety building in Esquimalt. (Courtesy Township of Esquimalt)
Esquimalt’s borrowing plan authorized for new public safety building

Alternate approval process didn’t garner enough opposition to warrant public vote

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

A float plane crashed into the waters near Painters Lodge in Campbell River on Thursday morning. Photo by Alistair Taylor / Campbell River Mirror
Float plane crashes into water near Campbell River

Pilot uninjured, plane hit sandbar while landing

John Kromhoff with some of the many birthday cards he received from ‘pretty near every place in the world’ after the family of the Langley centenarian let it be known that he wasn’t expecting many cards for his 100th birthday. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Cards from all over the world flood in for B.C. man’s 100th birthday

An online invitation by his family produced a flood of cards to mark his 100th birthday

FILE – Nurse Iciar Bercian prepares a shot at a vaccine clinic for the homeless in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, June 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
B.C. scientists to study effectiveness of COVID vaccines in people with HIV

People living with HIV often require higher doses of other vaccines

A 50-year-old woman lost control of her vehicle Tuesday, June 15, crashing through a West Vancouver school fence that surrounds playing children. (West Vancouver Police)
Driver ticketed for speeding near B.C. school crashes into playground fence days later

‘It’s an absolute miracle that nobody was injured,’ says Const. Kevin Goodmurphy

Dr. Réka Gustafson, who is British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer, speaks during a news conference in Vancouver on April 8, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. public health officials prepare to manage COVID-19 differently in the future

Flu-like? Health officials anticipate shift from pandemic to communicable disease control strategies

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

A Photo from Sept. 2020, when First Nations and wild salmon advocates took to the streets in Campbell River to protest against open-pen fish farms in B.C.’s waters. On Dec. 17, federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan announced her decision to phase out 19 fish farms from Discovery Islands. Cermaq’s application to extend leases and transfer smolts was denied. (Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror)
Feds deny B.C.’s Discovery Island fish farm application to restock

Transfer of 1.5 million juvenile salmon, licence extension denied as farms phased out

Most Read