I remember the moment I first read that there was a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China and saying out loud “uh oh… that’s not good.” I was just a little over a year into my career as an IP and had just worked through my first GI illness outbreak in my former facility in Chicago. While seeing this news article made my internal alarm bells go off, I was hopeful it would be quickly contained.
Fast forward to March 2020 when the first identified patient with COVID-19 was admitted to my former Chicago facility, we had already been working tirelessly to ensure we had everything in place for the safety of our team members and patients. We had provided education and hosted town halls, created signage, worked through our processes for screening and visitation, and were reviewing security footage for contact tracing in our incident command center. While all this was happening, I received a text from my mother saying that there had been a resident identified with COVID-19 in the assisted living facility where my grandfather was residing out of state. She mentioned that the facility ultimately isolated all the residents in their rooms, and we just hoped that he had not been exposed. Unfortunately, several days later he was found in his room delirious from fever and hypoxia and was rushed to the hospital. While testing was very slow at the time, within days he would pass away from what we knew to be COVID-19.
I share this moment because it truly put the gravity of the pandemic into perspective very early on for me. To have such a healthy, wonderful man taken so suddenly to this disease was incredibly difficult. That being said, while this terrible situation brought me much sadness it also drove me to do everything that I could for my facility. While I understood that I could only do so much from my position within my facility, I knew if we could implement processes that would prevent just one additional transmission that it would be worth all the sleepless nights, difficult work, and depleted energy.
Now that we are over a year out from the first COVID-19 surge, I feel like I have grown so much as an IP. This pandemic has forced me to grow as a better collaborator, a quicker thinker, and a stronger problem solver. I’ve been able to witness remarkable triumphs of scientific technology and public health with testing, treatment, and vaccination. I’ve also had to learn how to provide emotional support to patients and team members, how to be a calming voice amongst the chaos, and how to be a leader in the field of infection prevention. I can truthfully say that I am proud to hold my CIC® and look forward to what the rest of my IP career has to offer.