Fighting on the Frontlines


Ussama Azam

Unsplash, Ussama Azam

Erykah Sampson, Journalist

COVID-19 has caused many changes around the world and proven difficult to manage in day to day lives.  Frontline workers have been working tirelessly to not only do their jobs but also protect themselves and their patients.

“When the pandemic happened a lot of stuff shut down, the hospitals stopped doing elective procedures and diagnostic studies and if patients are not getting the mammograms patients can’t get diagnosed with breast cancer,” Holly King, a Radiation Therapist, said,  “There are other diagnostic studies that were getting put off and other types of cancers are not diagnosed as well.”

The pandemic is not only making it harder for the frontline workers to do their jobs but it is also causing complications with patients.  Since the outbreak of COVID-19, hospitals and doctor’s offices have had to make changes.  Hospitals are now putting money towards equipment such as masks and other protective gear needed for their workers, causing them to have to stop doing elective procedures and diagnostic testing.  Without diagnostic tests, patients are unable to have their illnesses diagnosed early for treatment.  Not only are these new changes affecting patients but they are also affecting nurses and doctors who now are not able to fully help their patients the way they would like to.

“We have really cut down on the [number] of people we are seeing so that we can stagger them more and spread them out so no one is around each other,” Heather Reed, a dental assistant, said. “We only allow one parent in with their kids.  The waiting room is closed and all the toys are away so the kids aren’t tempted to touch anything.  I think it is necessary right now that we have to do this to keep everyone safe and to not spread the virus.”

Dentists and dental assistants are also at risk during this pandemic.  Since their primary workspace is the mouth they have also had to take extra precautions to protect themselves and their patients.  In order to keep their patients safe and avoid spreading COVID through their offices, many dentist offices like Tidal Smiles Pediatric Dentistry, Ms. Reed’s place of employment, have had their patients wait outside for a staff member to come and get them from their vehicles to avoid unnecessary touching of things in the waiting room. A staff member checks patient’s temperatures before they are allowed into the building, and their masks must be worn at all times when their teeth are not being cleaned.

“I take off my scrubs before I come in and shower right away and I spray my shoes with Lysol,”  Toni Starling, a nurse at Sentara Obici Hospital, said.

Not only do people working during the pandemic have to worry about protecting themselves at work but also their families at home.  Many of the frontline workers have had to change their routines in order to keep COVID from entering their homes.  They have to be more vigilant and make sure that they aren’t taking any germs home with them.   

“It’s definitely caused a little bit more stress in our family because I constantly have stress and anxiety when I go to work and I get anxious before I go to work,” Beth Walker, a ICU nurse at Chesapeake Regional Hospital, said.  “I think about it all the time, I can’t help it, so then when I’m not at work I’m stressed out about when I go back to work.”

This pandemic has been stressful and it’s been especially so for frontline workers.  Hospitals are packed with patients and don’t have enough equipment to treat those patients while also protecting their workers.  Nurses are quitting causing there to be a lot of patients but not enough nurses in the hospitals.

“We have at least two Ipads on every unit and they have Zoom, Google Duo, Facetime, and Skype,” Mrs. Walker said. “We can do all kinds of stuff with the family members so they can talk to their loved ones.” 

Recently Chesapeake Regional Hospital received a donation.  The money was used to purchase Ipads, which are now used by patients to talk to their loved ones.  Since the hospital is no longer allowing visitors, this gives patients a chance to talk to their families.  

“We don’t have enough of anything.  We have at any given time right now in the ER 40 patients waiting for a bed, the house is full,” Mrs. Walker said. “It’s constantly you get one passed away and I’m not saying this in a blunt way but one dies and literally they want that bed cleaned so we can get another patient in there.  It’s insane.”