Alex Dickerson ’14
Medical ICU RN — Emory Hospital
How has your line of work been affected by COVID-19?
It’s difficult to put in words how much has changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but I think the biggest thing has just been the general sense of fear in both the staff and the patients. The thing that’s been crazy is really how much the CDC recommendations and hospital policy would change from day to day. Even in the span of the 12 hours I was off work things would change by the time I came back to work that evening. That and having to wear a mask for the duration of a 12.5 hour shift.
Can you describe the current situation in your workplace?
My ICU is unique in the sense that we are a “clean” ICU, meaning that our typical patient population (transplant recipients, oncology patients, etc.) are extremely vulnerable. So we would occasionally have patients that had positive COVID swabs come back once they were already on our unit, which was always really scary because we were so fearful of our other patients getting sick as well.
What have the last few weeks been like, in your own words?
Like Groundhog Day. It felt a lot like reliving the same day over and over, small things would change but over all it was just the similar feelings of fear, sadness for my patients whose families were unable to see them, anxiety about getting infected myself and giving it to others.
There were a lot of bright moments with the community rallying behind us, lots of people sent us food, cards, just encouragement in general. It wasn’t all bad, but has definitely been hard mostly on our patients. Imagine you or your loved one is critically ill in the ICU (even if it’s not with COVID-19) and no one can visit, that’s been the worst part for me specifically.
How has your home or personal life been affected by the pandemic?
I’ve been taking the social isolation very seriously. I only see my coworkers and my partner because we live together. I haven’t seen my family since December and I haven’t see friends outside of healthcare since February. It’s been extremely isolating.
How did Auburn prepare you for your current role?
I’m not sure that there’s anything that could have completely prepared me for the way COVID-19 has changed the face of my profession or my day to day life, but I think the importance of community is something instilled in me from my time at Auburn. And honestly, having the support of our community is something nurses have leaned on in the particularly bad moments.
How do you stay positive during these difficult times?
I watch a lot of funny, lighthearted television and movies with my partner and my adorable, sweet cats. I also have found that FaceTiming with family and friends has helped me a lot. It can be a struggle to stay positive, but my light at the end of the tunnel is being able to hug my mom, my dad, and my brother again.