One Day in the Life of an Acute Care PT During Covid-19
Early in the morning I take the elevator up to the COVID unit wearing a procedural mask. I then don my N95 and face shield for the morning. I think to myself…did I get a good seal on my N95? Will my shield fog today? As I walk up to the closed door of my first patient's room, I have an arm full of supplies. Do I have everything I need? Once I go in, I cannot come back out. Now in the patient's room I find myself unnaturally shouting at the patient. I fear that the patient cannot hear me through my N95 and face shield and over the noisy oxygen system. As the patient and I work towards sitting on the edge of the bed, I am constantly assessing their vitals. How much activity will the patient tolerate today? Should we be progressing slower or faster? If we ambulate to the restroom, I won’t have access to monitoring vitals. And if there is a medical emergency, help can not arrive as fast as it did prior to COVID-19.
As the patient and I work together on progressing their mobility and cardiorespiratory endurance, I realize that I am more than a physical therapist to them during this pandemic. Patients often times open up to me about their feelings in isolation. I think to myself, how can I give this patient purpose and happiness during this brief period of time they are not alone in their room? We work on so much more than the physical therapy goals outlined in their chart. Sometimes we sit near the window and talk about life outside the hospital. Other times we might facetime a family member after we reach a new milestone. Being present when patients virtually contact loved ones can be quite emotional and fosters a new kind of PT to patient relationship. As the short amount of time spent in the patient's room comes to an end, I begin to think through the doffing process. As I sanitize my gloves prior to untying my gown, I remind myself to follow the steps and move slowly. The last thing I want to do is rush through this and infect myself. Once outside the patient's room, I prepare a discharge plan for the patient. Discharge to a SNF or AR is not an option while COVID-19 positive. So, is the patient safe to return home and self-quarantine? Or do they need to remain hospitalized for therapy in an acute care setting, away from family and in isolation?
At the end of my day as I take off my face shield and N95 I am tired and ready for a breath of fresh air. But more importantly, I am thankful. I am thankful that I am alive and well and that my family and friends are just a phone call away. I walk home from work thinking of all the people that helped me get through my day—occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, care transition nurses, registered nurses and our in-house Spanish interpreters. It takes a great team to make every day a success and at the end of every day I am grateful to my COVID team.
Kaitlyn Cornelius PT, DPT