Content courtesy of Verizon.
A Texas snowstorm during a pandemic made my job even more complicated.
I’ve been a nurse for 10 years. That’s 10 years of experiencing the beauty of putting the needs of others before my own. And 10 years of working cohesively with other nurses to provide safe and competent care. But this year, I was challenged by more than just the pandemic.
In February, I was working as an LDRP (labor, delivery, recovery, and postpartum) travel nurse in Texas when the state’s COVID-19 infection rates were still high.
To make things worse, a dangerous snowstorm hit the Lone Star State.
The Basics Are Hard to Come By
In many parts of the affected area, there was no running water or electricity and no access to food because store shelves were empty. Not to mention the power outages! After four days of being off work and experiencing the Texas snowstorm first hand, I returned to work for my 12-hour shift to find that the storm had greatly affected the hospital.
It was functioning at a minimum capacity with the use of generators, and the state’s water supply was under a boil water advisory.
Shortly after arriving at work, I received my assignment: In the midst of a pandemic and natural disaster, I was to care for a pregnant patient with COVID-19 and comorbidities.
As a nurse, wife, mother, and grandmother, I was overwhelmed by an enormous amount of fear and anxiety. How do I stay safe? What about my family in Georgia? How do I follow safety guidelines and mitigate infection through hand hygiene without a safe water supply?
After leaving the pod and saying a prayer, I took a deep breath and went to meet who would turn out to be the best patient I had during my travel assignment. I introduced myself and promised to give my very best care in spite of the circumstances.
The patient had been hospitalized for over a week and desired a bath. I requested an order for bathroom privileges, but due to the severity of the patient’s condition, she had to be closely monitored and was under strict bed rest.
She Just Wanted a Bath
The faucets were turned off because of potential water contamination. I realized that in order to meet my patient’s needs, I had to be creative. A bath is normally not a huge ask from a patient, but in a crisis like this — a Texas snowstorm plus a pandemic — even a relatively insignificant task can pose a challenge. How was I going to give her the bath she so desperately wanted?
Sterile water! I realized I could use sterile water to provide a bedside bath.
It wasn’t easy to give a bath in full PPE, to be honest. I could barely breathe or see, and it’s easy to become overheated. But it was well worth the effort. Feeling clean obviously lifted her spirits.
The patient was so appreciative of the care she received that day.
“You were the only nurse to spend so much time with me and saw to it that I was able to get a bath,” she said.
I told her I was only doing what I felt was right and what I would want someone to do for me or a family member.
Sterile water was used when other patients needed a sanitary cleanup or for hand hygiene when sanitizer was not sufficient. But thank goodness the boil water advisory was lifted by the next day and the generators held out as long as they did.
Something as simple as sterile water made a difference for a patient who was going through a difficult time in her life and simply wanted to feel clean. I’m glad I was able to provide that relief. In return, she gave me an experience I won’t forget.
Nurses are compassionate advocates and we can handle quite a lot — even a Texas snowstorm. And we can also get creative when we need to for our patients.
I’m sure there are plenty of stories like mine of how nurses had to get creative this past year to care for patients while staying safe. What’s your story?