threadTALK Blog Series 18: Thoughts of an ICU Nurse with Carolyn Previti
ICU nurses work in the critical care unit of a hospital and care for patients with life-threatening medical conditions. With COVID-19 currently taking over all of our lives, these medical professionals are facing challenges like never before, in addition to dealing with a shortage in personal protective equipment vital to their safety. This month, we had the pleasure of interviewing mom of two and ICU nurse Carolyn Previti. Read more to find out about this life threatening disease from a medical standpoint and find answers to your coronavirus related questions.
Q Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your Instagram and YouTube page. What made you want to start creating content?
A I'd say my YouTube journey started after giving birth to my son. I was one of the first of my friends to have a baby and my family lives several states away. It was a very happy time in my life but also a very lonely time as well. I felt like I didn't have anyone close by I could connect with and share my experiences. I discovered a few motherhood channels on YouTube and immediately felt like I had found a group of women I could really relate to. I loved seeing what these other moms would do throughout the day, how they managed to get things done with their kids at home, meals that they cooked, things like that. There is no instruction manual after having a baby as we all know! So I really appreciated these moms on YouTube sharing their tips, tricks, stories and experiences. After regularly watching YouTube for about 2 years I got the itch to start my own channel and share my experiences with the world. It was the scariest thing I've ever done but it's also been the most rewarding! Being both a mom and a nurse I spend all my time taking care of others. My channel is something that I get to do just for me and it's great that I can do it from home in my spare time (or whenever I find time!) I created my IG page as another way of connecting with my subscribers on more of a daily basis. I share a ton on my stories about my daily life and really have fun interacting with my friends & followers.
Q We noticed that you are an ICU nurse, can you please tell us about your background?
A Sure! I've always been really interested in the medical field. I wasn't exactly sure what but I took a chance and applied to nursing school and thank goodness it all worked out! My last year of nursing school I was so fortunate to do an internship with a nurse in a level one trauma ICU. I was HOOKED. I knew I wanted to work in critical care from that point on. I started out working on a cardiology unit but transferred to the ICU after several years. I've been an ICU nurse now for eight years and love it! It's a field where you are always learning and it's so exciting to be the first to see all the amazing advances in medicine and use all the latest technology. Being an ICU nurse is a really interesting role because so much of our job is taking care of the patient and family as a whole. Our patients are often so ill they are on a ventilator and unable to communicate. We spend a lot of time with worried families, teaching them about their family member's disease process, explaining what they can expect, and helping them through the scary process of dealing with a critically ill family. All of that on top of caring for the patient of course. We see a lot of sadness and tragedy of course, but it is also extremely rewarding to see people recover from a serious illness or accident.
Q With COVID-19, I know everyone is confused and is going through a lot. As a nurse, can you explain what you are going through at work and what this situation looks like from your end?
A That's a tough question to answer because so much is changing on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. I live in the suburbs of New York City which we all know is the epicenter of the covid 19 outbreak in the United States. Even though I don't work in the city, my hospital has still been hit hard by the outbreak. Two weeks ago we had just a handful of cases and we were bracing for what was to come. Since then everything has changed. We have had to open 2 extra ICUs to accommodate the surge of patients that require a ventilator to survive and that has tripled the amount of patients we are used to caring for. Not only that, the patients are some of the sickest patients I have ever cared for in my nursing career. The hospital as a whole has had to mobilize every resource possible in order to care for these patients. With outpatient practices and elective procedures closed we are utilizing doctors and nurses from every specialty under the sun to help in the ICUs. Some of these people have never stepped foot in an ICU before but everyone is stepping up to the challenge and trying their best to keep the patients safe and cared for. All day every day all I hear is people saying "I've never seen anything like this." Even from our most senior nurses who have been working for almost 40 years. This outbreak is nothing like the AIDS epidemic. Not even like the SARS outbreak. It hits you hard and fast and you can go from walking in the emergency room one day to being in the ICU the next. One of the most devastating practices (although necessary) is that patients are forced to be separated from their families during these extremely terrifying times. With the virus spreading like wildfire, hospitals around the country have made the difficult decision to ban all visitors from the hospital because it is too risky to allow anyone beyond essential employees in. Of course there are exceptions for labor and delivery and pediatric patients (they are allowed their partner or their parent) but everyone else is forced to battle their illness with only their doctor or nurse there for support. We do our best to help them through these scary days but there is no possible way we can give them the comfort of a family member. I don't usually post anything about my nursing career on my social media because my focus is really about motherhood and lifestyle, but during these unprecedented times I really felt obligated to spread the truth about what is going on. Even in my own town there were people I knew having playdates, out at the playground, breaking all the social distancing rules. It's hard to understand why these practices are being put into place unless you are seeing what is happening first hand. So I hope that seeing someone that they know and trust tell them that yes, people are sick and dying and we need to take extreme measures will have more of an effect than perhaps what they see on the news each day.
Q We truly are so grateful for all of the nurses and doctors during these scary times. What are the risks that you all are facing while caring for these patients? And what are the precautionary measures that you are taking to protect yourselves in order to save others?
A The answer to this question definitely varies from hospital to hospital. The shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment) has been one of the largest struggles in caring for these patients. This has been extremely frustrating and scary and just goes to show how unprepared the healthcare system was for a pandemic of this magnitude. Covid 19 requires healthcare workers to use a mask called a N95 respirator. Under normal circumstances these are only required when caring for patients with diseases such as tuberculosis, measles, or chicken pox. Since these diseases are fairly rare in the United States I can understand why the hospital systems didn't have huge stockpiles. Now with the demand being so high it's been impossible to get as many as we need from the manufacturers. This has lead to to the completely unprecedented process of reusing PPE. I have never in my 12 year nursing career reused a mask or a gown before but it is better to reuse than to completely run out. The process has been changing often, but as of this week when I am granted a new N95 mask I must use that mask for 2 shifts before I am given a new one. Staff have been given one face shield to keep forever and must disinfect it after every single use. The protective gowns we can keep on if going from one room straight into the next but we take them off and throw them away if we are finished with patient care for a bit of time. The gowns don't get worn in the medication room or at the nurses station. Of course anytime you do something that has never been done before you are going to feel uneasy about it but we are all trying to be as careful as we can.
Q I know a lot of your viewers, as well as our readers have little ones who are probably wondering why they can't go to school or hang out with friends anymore...how would you suggest explaining the current situation that will cast a brighter light on this current pandemic for the little ones?
A Gosh, I wish I knew the answer to that question! It's hard for kids to have their normal routine disrupted and I'm sure everyone's entire lives have turned completely upside down. My son no longer can go to preschool and we made the extremely difficult decision to no longer have their grandparents come over to visit. My kids are 2 and 4 and I've tried to be as honest as I can with them about what is going on. I told them that there are a lot of germs being passed around and we are staying safe at home until everyone who is sick feels better. I've always tried to be truthful with my kids no matter what their age and they have actually accepted that answer better than I would have anticipated. Kids can be so adaptable and we seem to have found our new "normal" for now. They love that their dad is working from home in the basement and they can run in and see him throughout the day. We try and come up with new and fun things to do to break up the monotony. Our new favorite activity is going on "nature walks" in the woods behind our house-something we have never done before but now is something we look forward to doing almost daily.
Q Lastly, we love that you were able to relate your story with our designs. If you were to give a title to your life story, what would it be and why?
A I didn't create this slogan but I sure can relate to it! SUPER MOM SUPER NURSE SUPER TIRED!
"Be an author of your own life story."
Thank you so much for reading this month's blog feature.
Every month we feature an individual we believe have something amazing to share. They're not celebrities or high profile individuals. But normal people who are living life in their own extraordinary way. ThreadTALK is a way for us to showcase how we're all authors of our own life story.