When looking into someone else’s perspective of this pandemic, your viewpoints can change in an instant. If you asked an ICU nurse what they thought of the CoronaVirus in the later months of 2019, they may tell you that it was just a virus and not an emotional lull. Maybe they would’ve said it wasn’t a big deal. Now, here we are over a year later, our whole world has completely changed, and Tara Smith has experienced one of the biggest challenges a global pandemic brings. Fear.
Tara Smith is a nurse on the Rapid Response Team (RTT) at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Throughout her twenty-six year nursing career, she has worked at multiple hospitals, but has never had any experiences quite like a pandemic. As the years have gone by, Smith has always been someone who loves to help in any way she can. Other than her nursing occupation, she also fosters dogs through the Home At Last Dog Rescue organization. The group rescues dogs involved in unfortunate circumstances, gives them a temporary home, and prepares them for their forever family. Throughout the past year, Tara Smith’s life has been drastically changed, and now she’s here to share her own story.
When the CoronaVirus started last year, did you think it was going to last as long as it has? No, and I didn’t believe it. When I heard about the virus, I compared it to the flu, and didn’t believe it would become a global pandemic.
How did the virus affect your everyday life? I didn’t see any of my family, and there was a lot of uncertainty if I would get sick. I said the good thing is I discovered grocery delivery. There was a lot of fear of getting not only myself sick, but someone I love sick.
What has the hospital environment looked like during this time? You almost don’t even recognize your co-workers, and with all the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). I was grateful because my hospital always had everything we needed, and never went without anything. There was more equipment than I have ever seen in patient rooms before.
How has the vaccine changed the virus, hospital staff members, and patients? We are still in the beginning phase in PA, so we haven’t seen too much, but I have been vaccinated for 2 months, so it is good to know there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I’d consider it a feeling of hope.How did COVID-19 make you feel physically and emotionally? I think physically I have recovered, but emotionally I haven’t. Some of the stuff I have seen makes me wanna cry, but the hospital offers a great mental health program. I never took my work shoes off right away, but I would take my
shoes off at the door, run to let my dogs out, and take my clothes off in the kitchen and run to go shower. It would get very hot in PPE, and I would consider it overwhelming.
Was there a time when you felt like you lost hope in the virus ever coming to an end? Yes, and it was the time I was the angriest. It was probably when my family was on vacation without me, and I felt like this was never going to end. But now it has been a year and I can’t believe it.
What has been the most challenging part of working as a nurse during the pandemic? The hardest part is seeing the fear in patients eyes. There is so much uncertainty, especially when their family can’t be there. The emotional part as a nurse is so hard, and I saw family members saying goodby through an ipad screen.
Has being vaccinated made you feel better or worse about the direction the virus is going in? Two hundred percent better. I think we understand it more, and I hope everyone will be vaccinated soon.
What has being a healthcare worker taught you in the past year? I am proud of what I do everyday, and to just be grateful for everything I have in my life. I am proud of what I do, and last year was the year of the nurse. I feel like I have really gotten the respect I deserve along with my co-workers.
Over the past year, nurses all over the world have given their all to keeping everyone safe, and we should feel eternally grateful to the commitment they’ve put into their jobs. Tara Smith was just one person to show that this virus really became the state of being afraid. Throughout this pandemic, healthcare workers have been given the respect and recognition that they deserved for saving lives. The people on the frontlines weren’t just experiencing the virus, but the frontlines of fear.