Essentially, they’re keeping us going

Essential workers keep the community functioning

by Lizzy Kanzler, staff

They’re working at the grocery stores, the pharmacies, the auto repair shops, the care facilities. The daycares. The hospitals and doctors’ offices.The community is seeing many everyday heroes: workers at essential businesses. 

Many in the Shorewood community continue to work throughout this pandemic in order to keep others safe and do mandatory jobs to keep our community functioning. 

While many are doing their jobs by taking precautions and social distancing, the essential workers are also taking precautions at their jobs. Lindsey Hiett, sophomore, who works at a senior living home follows the same social distancing rules while she is at work that the people of the community have to follow. 

“We have to wear gloves and regularly change them, we have face masks, and stand six feet away from each other at all times,” Hiett said. “When we are prepping or on break there are dots on the floor that are six feet [apart]. For the residents, the dining room is closed, we deliver food to their door. All contactless, kind of like room service on a cruise ship.” 

Lindsay Mullen, a nurse at Swedish with many ties to Shorewood, is working hard to keep everyone safe. She also must take precautions in order to protect her family, herself, and the community. 

“Currently it is required for everyone to wear a mask while in the building, not just doing patient care. If you are taking care of someone with Covid-19 you are wearing a N-95 mask or regular face mask, with a face shield that stretches to cover your face and neck,” Mullen said. “A gown is worn along with gloves. For more than a month now no visitors have been allowed, with just a few exceptions. Some exceptions include a patient who has surgery can have one person be there when they get back for 30 minutes, and someone who is confused can have one person at the bedside to help with caring for that patient.”

Just as the rules for the school during quarantine are constantly changing, so are the rules and information for the essential workers and the pandemic. What they have to do for work is changing just as rapidly. Especially for the nurses. 

“Things change day to day, if not hour to hour. Now things are more in control. Every day we get an update with any new information. I am a charge nurse so I make sure and read that first [and] relay the information to other nurses. First Hill, and all other campuses of [Swedish], have just one entrance that everyone must use and there is staff giving us masks, and hand sanitizer. We take our temperature and if we have a fever >100 we are sent home. For nurses going to be with Covid patients we give them a partner to help with donning and doffing (on and off) gowns correctly.  We take extra cleaning measures, and this makes things a little more cumbersome than before,” said Mullen.

With the changes in work at nursing homes, there has also been a drop in their hours. Hiett said her work has changed a lot. “We used to serve in the dining room, but now it is only deliveries. [We use] all disposable things and of course all the gloves and that stuff. Our hours are less since it takes less time than our old work,” Hiett said.

The precautions continue even after they’ve left work. At home they must also be careful because what they do there affects their families, self, coworkers, and the people they serve. 

“When I get home I have to clean my phone, car handles, etc and wash my hands thoroughly as well as changing out of my work clothes and washing them. However it is nice and makes me happier to be able to see people- my coworkers, etc – even though we’re six feet apart,” Hiett said.

As well as her patients, Mullen has someone else that she is taking care of: her 7 year old daughter. 

“As a single mom I was worried a month ago that one day I would have to tell my daughter that I wouldn’t be able to see her for a couple of weeks, giving her care to my parents, because I did not know what this virus was going to look like. I played out that conversation in my head, and fortunately I never had to have that conversation,” Mullen said. “Every day I walk into the hospital [knowing] that if the risk is too great that I will make the decision to self quarantine while continuing to work. I have talked to my daughter about the virus very early on, explaining on a first grade level what is different and what mom does at work. However, me telling my daughter about the virus does not scare her unnecessarily because I have always been upfront regarding anything medical related to her. I never wanted her not to trust me when it came to doctors or dentists so I tell her about upcoming healthcare visits and what she can expect allowing her time to ask me questions. I will say she has taken this very well, I believe she knows I would tell her the truth about the situation.”

Mullen wants everyone to know healthcare workers are doing their very best. Said Mullen: “Please take care of yourself at home. The hospitals and first responders will always be there, during a pandemic and post pandemic. Thank you to anyone who has helped by making masks, donating food, and sending well wishes. It is so very true that a thank you does go a long way. So I would like to say thank you to everyone for what they have done to flatten the curve. We did this together!”