“It’s ‘go time,’” announced Bella Caruso, RN, as she said goodbye to her partner and their dog early on a Monday morning for another long day, another long week, on the COVID-19 unit at Northern Arizona Healthcare’s Flagstaff Medical Center.
The journey to work feels heavier than it did six months ago when the unit hosted patients who had knee and hip replacement surgery – not a new, contagious virus.
“I have a lot of anticipation and fear associated with ‘What’s my day going to look like?’ ‘How sick will my patients be?’ and ‘How long is this going to last?’” Bella explained. “The mornings can be very crazy.”
The highlight of a nurse’s day - her patients
Once at the hospital, after she’s put on all the necessary personal protective equipment, or PPE, Bella turns her focus to the patients. Her approach, as she provides first-rate patient care, is not to show fear or apprehension even if she might be feeling those things herself.
“Just being there; being present for a patient, especially when they can’t have their loved ones with them, is essential,” she said. “I try to focus just on them even though there’s so much going on outside the room and a million things running through my head,” she said. “The highlight of my day is when I have time to interact with them and hear more about their lives.”
But what about fear that she might contract COVID-19 herself or bring it home to people she loves? Bella has made peace with that.
“Knowing that the job I'm doing is so important right now makes it a risk I'm willing to take,” she said.
The power of a team
Bella’s close-knit team is key to her positive attitude. Even when they can only recognize one another by their shoes underneath all the PPE – camouflage boots, for example, or pink sneakers – nurses and caregivers support one another as they fight hard for the best possible outcomes for each and every patient in their care.
“Coming to work feels like coming to see some of my most favorite people and knowing that together, we can get through anything – even this,” she said.