Duke Raleigh nurse gives inside look at caring for ICU patients during pandemic

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A local ICU nurse says the pandemic has changed some of the ways hospitals operate, but it hasn’t changed his role as a nurse, caring for patients as if they are family.

As an ICU nurse at Duke Raleigh Hospital, Jonathan McGee has seen all kinds of illnesses and injuries, but nothing like COVID-19.

“The disease process is terrifying,” McGee said. “It is scary even for us. It’s new, it’s different and so that’s real. It’s also true that I believe I work in a place that we can take good care of these people.”

The hospital started preparing before the virus got to the Triangle.

“We were able to designate an entire floor to treat COVID patients, we were able to start training an entire staff of colleagues,” explained McGee. “So that if it did get really bad as it did in places like Italy and New York we would be prepared for that.”

Fortunately, it hasn’t gotten to that point.

McGee is thankful he and his coworkers have the protective gear they need.

“Duke has done a really good job of providing us with PPE with finding ways to conserve PPE,” he said. “I have friends in places where they are being asked to use masks for five and six days. I have a family friend who is an EMT who just didn’t get anything – people who are far less prepared than I am – so I go to work with an understanding that this is dangerous and scary and all these things but super grateful that I work where I work.”

To control infection, visitors aren’t allowed at the hospital right now, which makes connecting with patients even more vital.

“The basis of my job is the relationship I have with that person. The core of everything that I do is touching them, talking to them, being with them consoling them, so that part of my job has become so much more important, since not only are families not allowed who normally help in that role, but we are also in space suits. I can’t imagine how scary that is,” McGee said. “The first thing I tell patients when they are admitted, especially if they are intubated and sedated, is ‘You are where you need to be.’”

He hopes everyone else will stay home.

“We haven’t been overwhelmed in the way the New York has and that is only due to the extreme measures that we’ve taken as a state, as a community, and that has protected me. That has protected my grandparents. That’s protecting my wife.”

He knows staying home is tough, and that people are losing income. He says he tries to buy from local restaurants and businesses that are offering delivery or pickup options to give back to the community.

“People are struggling and I am so blessed to have an income right now, so it’s easy in some sense. It’s really easy for me to say, ‘stay home,’ but that is so important and that is what is going to get out of this faster,” he said.

He added, “I will be there for you when you or your family member comes into the ICU; I need you to be there for me, to protect me and my family by staying home.”

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