(This guest essay describing a day in the life of a health care worker was written by Jersey City resident Frank Bernard Bobadilla, Nurse Manager, 7 East – Medical-Surgical Unit I, Jersey City Medical Center)
“Heroes Work Here.” This sign greets me every day as I walk into work.
To be honest, there are times when I do feel like a literal comic book superhero. You can’t help but feel like one when wearing a face mask and protective eye wear covering most of your face, similar to Spiderman or Batman.
Ever since the COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve had to learn how to adjust my day-to-day routine and become more accustomed to these unfamiliar challenges. First stop, pick up a face mask at the hospital front desk as I make my way to the employee elevators, ensuring every effort not to touch the elevator buttons.
As I walk into my unit, 7 East, I am greeted by my colleagues like usual, but with the nurses and techs donning face shields, eye wear, N95 masks, and bouffant caps, everyone is barely recognizable. It’s anyone’s guess as to who is who.
The biggest change my unit has experienced is the change in the patient population we were so accustomed to. Prior to the pandemic, we were a medical-surgical and stroke unit and that was our expertise. Since becoming a designated COVID unit, we acclimated ourselves with the specialized care the new patients require.
Despite these changes, it is our teamwork dynamic that has remained as strong as ever. Rapid responses, intubations, and cardiac arrests unfortunately have become the norm and understandably so, considering how critical our patients can become.
When emergencies on 7 East are called overhead, everyone knows their role and does their part, even if it’s just to observe those going into the isolation rooms and providing a quick cross check to ensure everyone’s PPE is appropriate. Especially in an emergency, the last thing on anyone’s mind is if you have your face shield on to protect yourself, so the additional help is always needed.
One of the hardest challenges is knowing family members and friends cannot visit their loved ones at this time. There’s only so much human connection an iPad and a video call can provide. Our team does their best to be there for the patients and to remind them that we are here for them.
As with any hero, it is important to remain strong – physically, mentally, and emotionally — despite everything going on.
The long day ends with the removal of my N95 mask and a quick look in the mirror of the deep markings the mask’s seal and straps have left behind on my face. The marks sometimes hurt and leave unflattering lines on my face, but I know it’s temporary and won’t last forever and neither will COVID-19.
As I leave for the day, I look again to see the “Heroes Work Here” sign by the exit. With every hero, there’s always a corresponding villain to defeat. Although COVID-19 has proven to be a formidable adversary, we will continue to fight these battles as needed, remaining hopeful that we will soon come out victorious.