In recognition of National Nursing Week (May 10 to 16), The Abbotsford News published a special tribute in its Thursday, May 6 edition. This is one of the featured stories.
Corina Rochon thought she had seen it all in her 16 years of nursing, but then COVID-19 hit.
She recalls just over a year ago when she was working in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH) and the first COVID patient was admitted.
“I knew this was it. The virus was here in our community, in our hospital. Sadly, that day was joined by many others like it. COVID patients started arriving daily, often multiple a day,” Rochon said.
She said the last year has by far been the most challenging of her career, with record numbers of patients in critical care, particularly now during the third wave of the virus in B.C. ICU rooms that normally hold one person now regularly hold two, and they’re always full.
Rochon said this puts an emotional and physical strain on health-care workers, who are often the only ones at the bedside of dying patients.
“Watching families say goodbye to a loved one over Zoom is absolutely devastating … I have cried with families. I have cried with patients.”
Their burden is compounded by a segment of the population who is defiant about public health restrictions designed to limit the spread of the virus and who spread misinformation and conspiracy theories.
“Each misconception is defeating and taking away from the sacrifices we are making. Nurses are tired. We are giving what we have left to make it through this third wave and are out of energy trying to correct the constant supply of assumptions and misinformation,” she said.
Rochon said another challenge is staffing shortages that were already in place before COVID-19. But now, with the stresses from the pandemic, more health-care workers are facing burnout or are leaving the field entirely.
She said this will have long-term impacts for the profession, as more nurses decide not to return to the field and many will suffer from physical and mental-health deterioration.
But Rochon said there’s no other career she can imagine doing because, despite the extreme challenges, there are so many rewards.
She has been in the field since obtaining her bachelor of science in nursing through University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) in 2005. She spent two years as a surgical nurse before completing her critical care nursing speciality through BCIT in 2007.
She then worked in the old MSA Hospital’s ICU before transitioning to ARH when it opened in 2008.
Rochon accepted a faculty position at UFV in 2016 and completed her master of nursing at Athabasca University in 2018.
She spent about six months away from bedside nursing in ICU because she needed to take a break from the emotional difficulty of critical care. When she returned on a casual basis, she said her passion for the job returned and she never stopped going back.
Rochon has balanced her nursing around her teaching work, but felt morally obligated to pick up extra hospital shifts during the pandemic.
“We need to be there and step up and do what we were trained to do – and what we want to do. I’ve never thought of it anything else than this is my job. This is what’s expected of me,” she said.
Rochon urges people to follow public-health guidelines and get vaccinated if they are able so that everyone can get back to “normal.” She said it is up to each person to make the change for the greater good, and respect the health-care workers who are facing the pandemic head on.
“I am proud to be a nurse. Nurses have demonstrated patience, courage and commitment throughout this pandemic but are tired. Once hailed as superheroes, we certainly are not; we do not have super powers to keep us going. We are frustrated and exhausted,” she said.
“People are sheltered from our reality, but our stories are real. Our own experiences have long-lasting effects. We are humans too.”