What is it like to be working on the front lines of health care in Waterville during the coronavirus pandemic? Morning Sentinel reporter Amy Calder sought to find out with a pair of question-and-answer interviews with two women with decades of experience at Northern Light Inland Hospital.

Wendy Roderick is a registered nurse at the Northern Light Inland Hospital Acute Care Unit.

Wendy Roderick, 38, is a registered nurse at the Northern Light Inland Hospital Acute Care Unit. She’s been at Inland for 14 years and worked in health care for 22 years.

Here are Roderick’s responses to recent questions:

What are your responsibilities and what is a typical day like?

It’s all about making sure our patients are taken care of and safe. It’s a very busy job, with lots of challenges, but lots of rewards too.


How has your job changed since the coronavirus pandemic started?

I have to be even more alert to my patients’ symptoms and more mindful of what I am touching. Patient safety and privacy is always our top concern — that hasn’t and will never change.

We are in a community health crisis and we have to be more vigilant than ever as caregivers. We are doing lots of drills to practice our responses and we are cross-training in other units in case we are needed. Part of our planning is to reduce the number of people who enter a patient’s room so that we can reduce the risk for exposure. That means nurses will take on other functions like drawing blood and delivering food trays. This is challenging, but very important for safety.

Of course, it’s not just nurses, it’s all disciplines and roles, from doctors to rehab staff to food and environmental services teams — everyone is pitching in as we prepare. It really shows that we are a team, and everyone is doing their part.


How are you doing, mentally, and how are your co-workers and patients feeling about all this?

I’m doing OK mentally. Being a nurse, I understand the risks of caring for COVID-positive patients and that I could get this illness. I accept those risks, and it helps to know that we take serious precautions. Many staff I work with have a similar mentality.

That being said, anyone who works in a hospital during this pandemic is naturally worried about getting sick themselves. That’s why we follow CDC guidelines and do all the right things to keep everyone safe. We prepare for things like this. And while we may be a little nervous, we are trying to stay focused on the fact that we are prepared, we are professionals and we’re good at our jobs. We love our jobs and the people we care for.


How are you supporting one another during this?

We check in with each other throughout the day, make sure we get our breaks, try to maintain a positive attitude and listen to each other’s concerns.


How are you protecting yourselves, your families and one another?

We are washing our hands, wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), washing our hands, staying home unless necessary to go out, washing our hands and social distancing. I do have a process when I get home to increase safety. I remove my clothes immediately and directly place them into the washing machine. I get right into the shower, and I will not let my family hug me or get near me until after my shower.


What keeps you doing what you do?

Our patients need a little TLC during this time and when they are ill and feeling vulnerable. This is why I became a nurse. Some just want someone to listen to their concerns, others want positive encouragement during these troubling times and some just want to know that they are not alone. Not to mention making sure their needs get met on a daily basis.


I have heard some health care workers, on the news, for instance, say that when they are home, they just want to get back to their jobs. Do you also feel this way?

Of course, as health care professionals it’s ingrained in us to help people and our help is in high demand right now.


Do you feel supported and protected as much as possible by your supervisors, administrators?

Yes, they are keeping up to date with CDC guidelines and formulating plans so we’ll be better prepared. They also all want us to protect ourselves. We get daily updates as to how to protect ourselves. It’s really hard right now. There is a shortage of PPE nationwide, so we’re trying to conserve where it’s safe to do so before we get a surge of patients. We’re in a crisis so we have to do the best we can to prepare for what is likely to come.


What would you like to say to those in the community who might be thinking of you and your profession during these trying times?

Thank you for your support. The support is absolutely amazing.  We’ve had people call up to thank us for our hard work and offering to donate items and food. Words cannot describe how much we appreciate the support. It is what keeps us going.


What advice would you give to fellow Watervillians around the pandemic?

To please stay home as much as possible and wash your hands. It truly is the best preventative measure we can take to slow down the spread. Every time you go out and/or let people into your home you expose yourself, your family, the community, and health care professionals. Please follow Gov. Mills’ stay at home order.


Is there anything else you would want people to know, either about the pandemic, your profession, what it is like working in health care at this time, etc.?

I am very proud to be a nurse and part of the health care family that will help us all get through these really tough times. Yes, we are concerned about the impact on ourselves, our families, our pets. We know the risks. But we’re here because we love taking care of people, it’s who we are — it’s just what we do. People call us heroes, but honestly, people who stay home and practice social distancing are the real heroes. You really could save lives.

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