COVID-19: Staff Stories
Ange G. - Registered Nurse at Saint-Vincent Hospital
For me, March 2020 was a month like no
other. The world was in turmoil following the abrupt changes caused by what
would become the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic. I was coming back from an 11-day
trip in England; all travellers were warned to return home before the lockdown
and to self-isolate for 14 days. During my self-isolation, I realized that
I had flu symptoms.
At first, I told myself that maybe it was
nothing and it would pass. But, as time went on, the burden as a health care
professional to protect my patients weighed on me—to get tested. The question
echoing in my mind was “If I don’t do it for myself, maybe do it for my
patients.” As health care professionals, we can unconsciously feel invulnerable.
In any case, the danger is built-in, due to the nature of our profession. What
is this virus? We’ve always faced all kinds of illnesses at work. It seems like
this only happens to others? Not to us. Let me tell you that receiving a
positive diagnosis for an infection or a disease leaves everyone vulnerable. I
like to tell myself that I am my first patient.
I really began to understand this motto in
March of last year. By staying isolated in my room, with many questions and
fears, the COVID-19 pandemic became a reality for me. The number of cases reported
on the news was no longer a statistic for me, I was one of them. This number
represents real people who live among us and who have people who care about
them. Fortunately for me, my symptoms didn’t get worse and I never needed to be
hospitalized. Following this infection, I got myself checked four times before
testing negative for COVID-19 and being able to go back to work.
On April 30, 2020, I returned to work
after almost two months away from a hospital setting. I was full of feelings of
gratitude and pride. I better understood the importance of health and how
privileged I am to be a health care provider and a frontline worker. For myself,
I would say that I drew my strength from my faith in Jesus and from the support
and love of my family during these difficult times. I can appreciate the public
health instructions of Public Health, and the Occupational Health and Safety
Today, those days of being alone, of fears and worries
dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic are just history, but it’s history that I
would really like to share with others, and to explain the lessons learned
through a book.
Karen L. - Director of Therapeutic Support Services
A few weeks before leading up to
March 13, I was on vacation. It was March Break and I was spending some time
with two of my daughters, home for a week to “study”. My week was full of
activity: skiing, skating on the canal, power yoga, shopping and dining
out…..life was good :)
Fast forward to March 15 and my
life of bliss was all but a distant memory.
I, like everyone at Bruyère, hit
the ground running. My team and I needed to adapt our service delivery model so
that we could continue to meet the needs of our patients, residents and family
members during a global pandemic. In a very short period of time, a centralized
system for facilitating virtual visits had been created and the unit support
worker position began to take root within the organization.
On the May long weekend, I started
to feel unwell. It started out with a sore throat, chills, headache and all the
usual symptoms when you’re coming down with “something.”
Rather than taking some time to
rest and refuel, I went for a bike ride to sweat it out. By that time there
was a COVID clinic and I went to get tested, just to be on the safe side because
I wanted to return to work with a clear conscience. With my negative test
result, I felt confident and reassured that the persistent and
irritating cough I was experiencing would soon go away.
By June 11 I knew that I needed to
take a break. My irritating cough had turned into what I and everyone else
thought was bronchitis. Nothing some R&R and antibiotics wouldn’t
fix. Wrong again. Although I desperately wanted those antibiotics to
work, no such luck.
Over the next weeks, a strange
feeling like I have never experienced before started to invade my body - total
malaise. I lost my sense of taste and smell; experienced a strange rash;
developed tinnitus and could not move.
I am a COVID Long Hauler. For
weeks I was in denial because in my brain, COVID was something older people got
or people with previous health issues and I did not fall into either of these categories.
Pre COVID-19, I was an active career woman who rode 25km on her bike to get to
Although my symptoms still come
back in waves, I am adapting to life with COVID. There is no cure,
but I have discovered that there are things that I can do for myself that
contribute to my healing. I have created a blog inspired by my experience in
hopes of helping others who may be struggling during these crazy days of COVID.
Throughout my life journey, the
one thing that has remained constant these past 31 years is my love and
dedication to Bruyère.
This past year, I have witnessed Bruyère
responding to a tsunami and what an amazing job you have all done keeping the
boat afloat. I have never been more proud to work for this organization.
I know the water is still choppy
and there may be waves ahead but I am confident that Bruyère is on the right course and
will come out on the other shining brilliantly.
Nicholas K. - Bruyère Research Institute
My current role is as a Patient Navigator with the Access to
Resources in the Community (ARC) project with Bruyère RI under Dr. Simone
The ARC project is a patient centered navigation model to
help individuals overcome barriers and access resources that address their
health and social needs. We are linking patients experiencing needs such as
social isolation, anxiety, depression, food insecurity, income loss and
any other challenges brought on by the pandemic, to local and virtual
Currently we are implementing the ARC navigation model in
the Merrickville-Wolford and North Dundas regions where we are inviting primary
care providers in the area to direct their patient who could benefit from the
navigation support, to the ARC project.
Since working as the Navigator with the ARC project I have
been able to see how the pandemic has really affected families and community
members. Often, I will get patients who will be in financial stress because they
have lost their job due to the pandemic and can no longer provide for their
family and children so they feel like they have let their family down. Since
the pandemic has also shown a need in mental health supports, often when
patients get referred for navigation from their family doctor almost every
patient will identify that mental health help is one thing they would like to
access since the pandemic. Most of the time it is stress from job loss but I
have also seen a lot of anxiety, depression and social isolation due to fear
for a loved one.
Since working during the pandemic with individuals who have
been in harsh situations It has made me grateful for the things that I take for
granted each day like a job and food on the table each day. For some, those are
things they struggle with providing to their families and I don’t think I would
ever want to be in a position like that.
Daniel - Volunteer at Saint-Louis Residence
The COVID-19 pandemic has confirmed my commitment to seniors!
I came to Canada in 2019. In February 2020,
I started volunteering at SLR.
A few weeks after I started my volunteer work,
the first COVID-19 crisis erupted at SLR. Following the outbreaks, volunteers
were no longer allowed to enter into the home. I missed the residents
enormously and I wanted to provide them with support.
As soon as the quarantine was lifted, despite
the pandemic, I told Mariama Diallo, the volunteer coordinator, that I was
interested in continuing my volunteer functions. The protective measures that
were in place reassured me.
I was happy to return to my volunteer
activities. My tasks included friendly visits to relieve loneliness, feeding
residents and offering support to staff. The satisfaction I got by offering
support to vulnerable people confirmed my passion for pursuing a career in this
Currently, I am working as a unit support worker
at SLR on weekends and I am registered in the personal support worker program.
I’m going to graduate in a few months and I will offer my services to Bruyère.
Darius - Volunteer at Saint-Louis Residence
started my weekly volunteering at the residence in 2017. I quickly developed a
strong connection with some of the residents. They, as much as I, looked
forward to our meetings to talk and go for walks outside. Suddenly, the
COVID-19 pandemic interrupted our friendly visits. I missed the residents and I
am so impressed by the resilience they’ve shown during what’s been almost a
year. Being isolated for long periods, at a time of life when human contact is
so important—that’s not easy. Despite it all, they’ve found ways of staying
positive, and they’re hoping for better days, now that spring is coming.
Residence staff have proven their exceptional devotion since the start of the
pandemic and I am really grateful for the organization of virtual visits via
FaceTime with the residents. It’s a great way to catch up with them and to
remind them that I’m not forgetting them. With the arrival of the vaccines, I
can hope I’ll be able to return to my volunteer work at the residence soon.
am really looking forward to the time when I can meet up with the residents, go
for walks outdoors with them to admire the beauties of nature, and, especially,
to listen to what they have to tell me. Saint-Louis Residence is a part of my
Samah - Unit Support Worker - Saint-Vincent Hospital
I’ve volunteered at Saint-Vincent for several years, but my worries about the pandemic mixed in with the new hospital procedures created an atmosphere I almost didn’t recognize on my first day as a Unit Support Worker.
It didn’t take long to observe the peculiar fear, anxiety and loneliness emanating into the hallways. Family visits were restricted and the patients were suddenly confronted with masked, shielded and gowned staff they could barely recognize. I didn’t know where to begin. How could I maximize my time and efforts without compromising my own well-being? Following several rounds of trial and error, and after repeatedly reminding myself to slow down, I found a working answer to this layered question: Do your best, focus on one thing at a time, and set an alarm for everything else.
Friendly visits are always a great starting point and while they were something I did as a volunteer, this particular experience was different. Seeing patients on a daily basis and getting to know their families, I learned details about their life that placed their humanness way above their current reality as a patient. My emotions were sent on unusual rides of joy and sorrow that were especially turbulent during the outbreak. “Hold the door, I’m coming!” a patient with dementia would frequently yell out as I opened the unit doors to exit. A disheartening image I’ll never forget. Providing a sliver of comfort to patients like this one, who were confused by the sudden pandemic-induced restrictions, was by far the most cherished aspect of my role. Trying to make sense of their world and explain circumstances in a way that fit their reality was a unique challenge considering that I myself had trouble understanding the anomaly of the time.
In the face of challenge and uncertainty, genuine human connection seems to be the simple antidote that we’re all equipped with. Whether it be an eye-scrunch for a smile, a daily trip to the boutique, or the lending of an ear, my experience as a USW has been a testament to the need of further humanizing health care, especially during times of remarkable change.
Unit Support Worker - Saint-Vincent Hospital
One may assume that working at Saint-Vincent is a great privilege to help people with critical health challenges. It’s absolutely true! However, my experience revealed that working there as a unit support worker is more than helping others. It is also a learning opportunity.
I learn from my supervisors, my coworkers, the dedicated nurses, the medical teams and the social workers. Predominantly, I have been learning from the valuable patients who are here from different walks of life. This perspective helps me to take enjoyment from my job and it also becomes a source of motivation as I always start my day with new expectations.
Let me share with you some of the life skills that I learned since I started my job as a unit support worker:
- I learned to be compassionate: I realized that compassion is an essential characteristic of a good unit support worker. Without that skill, we can’t deliver an effective service.
- I learned trust and honesty: As you all may know, the importance of honesty is paramount. I must be honest with patients, honest with other coworkers and above all, honest with myself.
- I learned to be a source of motivation: As a unit support worker I need to have the ability to build patients’ self-esteem and self-confidence through words of encouragement so they can share their rich experiences.
- I also learned to be flexible and adaptable: This is crucial, especially during this pandemic time where circumstances are changing so rapidly. In all challenges and obstacles, I ought to prepare myself to adapt with the new normal and to be flexible to go beyond my comfort zone.
Finally, here at Saint-Vincent, I have acquired the skill to be an effective team player and a good communicator. In a word, I am really grateful to work at Saint-Vincent Hospital.