April 2, 2020

Summer Search reached out to Seattle alumna Lisa Blechschmidt, a registered nurse working in the Pacific Northwest. She reflects on her role as a nurse, what’s changed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and offers advice to help the community stay safe.

Name: Lisa Blechschmidt

Site: Summer Search Seattle

Summer Search Trips:
1) Outward Bound in Moab, Utah.
2) VISIONS on the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana.

Current Position: Registered Nurse

Lisa_NurseLisa Blechschmidt (right), registered nurse and Summer Search Seattle alumna.

Q: Why did you become a nurse?

I have always had a passion for the sciences. The human body amazes me, still. I also love the power of people’s stories. Nursing is the perfect combination of all of those things. Nursing is a profession of life-long learning. I’m a few years in and still learn something new every day at work. I also get to hear and be a part of the stories of each of my patients and their families and help empower them to take control of their narrative and health.

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your work?

I work in pediatrics and unlike many respiratory illnesses, COVID-19 hasn’t hit as hard in young children. However, I work at a facility that serves the whole northwest region so we are preparing our staff to care for our “older” patients (up to 21 years old) as well as getting training in basic adult health nursing care so that we can be prepared to take on additional patients when adult facilities reach their breaking point.

There is also a national shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). This means that the hospital is rationing these supplies to healthcare workers. We are re-using masks that are designed for single use.

Policies around visitation, number of caregivers and volunteers have changed drastically in order to hopefully limit exposure of COVID-19 within our hospital. While it is necessary and smart to do these things, it also has significant implications. For healthcare workers it means we are not being protected the way we should be as we care for these patients. More nurses are testing positive for COVID-19 each day. It’s a scary time to be in healthcare.

It is also impacting our patients and families. Limits on visitors, volunteers and caregivers at the bedside means that our kids are not getting the full extent of support that they usually would. Neither is the primary caregiver at the bedside as they are not able to switch out and take a break.

It’s impacting everyone.

Lisa_and_colleagueLisa (left) and a fellow nurse enjoy a brief moment of levity during a shift.

Q: What do you wish people knew about the pandemic or your profession?

I wish more people could find a balance in their approach to responding to this pandemic. I’m seeing a lot of polarity in the response. Either people are preparing for Doomsday and hoarding supplies beyond what they need, or they think this is being blown way out of proportion and they are continuing with life as normal as much as they can. Both of these approaches are harmful to the community and the healthcare system.

For every person hoarding supplies, there is someone going without the basics. For each person rushing themselves or their child to the nearest ER when they develop fever and cough and demanding to be tested for COVID-19, it’s further limiting the testing capabilities and PPE we need to serve those who will need to be hospitalized and the healthcare staff who will treat them.

Everyone should be taking this seriously. Do your part. Stay home unless you absolutely need to go out. Practice proper hand hygiene and social distancing when you are out doing your grocery shopping. Think about your neighbors, your grandparents, and those who are unemployed during this time and help where you can. The only way we get through this is together.

As far as nursing goes, I just want everyone to know that your entire medical team is doing the best they can. Not just during a pandemic, but always.

This interview was lightly edited for clarity.

Header photo credit: Shawna Butler, via Twitter.

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