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“It’s getting scary as a nurse,” UIHC nurse talks about how it looks on the frontlines of the pandemic

Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 10:13 PM CST
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - In Iowa, as of Friday night, the new number of daily COVID-19 cases is near record highs with more than 4,000 people testing positive in a 24-hour-period. With so many Iowans getting COVID-19 and needing care in a hospital, many health care workers are working overtime to care for COVID-19 patients.

Nick Klein is in his sixth year of being a registered nurse. He says this year is unlike anything he’s ever faced. ”We didn’t really know, it seems like, what to expect and what we were getting ourselves involved with. Our unit became the COVID unit... it’s completely different physically, mentally, and emotionally,” says Klein.

He works in the medical ICU at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, treating 1-2 COVID-19 patients a day, depending on how critical their condition is. Klein says he and his team often work 12 hour days, covered from head to toe in PPE. They’re doing everything they can to help the growing number of patients coming into the hospital. ”That we are seeing more patients come in with it, it’s getting scary as a nurse. I would 100% be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to go to work next week. In regards to how full are we going to be, how many patients are we going to have. How sick are they going to be?” says Klein.

Klein says he wants people to understand the seriousness of the pandemic from the perspective of frontline workers like him. He says it’s difficult to explain the impact without seeing it firsthand. And the pain of a patient dying can be overwhelming...something Klein has experienced firsthand, early into the pandemic. “They were not doing very well. So, I helped assist family in calling to say their goodbyes to this patient. They unfortunately proceeded to pass. I just couldn’t fathom having somebody pass alone. So, I sat with them for a couple hours and waited until they passed.”

Klein says he’s very grateful for his coworkers at UIHC, and that they often lean on each other for support. “I would say the biggest thing I’ve learned is how great of a team I have. My coworkers have really stepped up. None of us asked to be COVID nurses, we just got thrown into this. We got into nursing to help others,” says Klein.

With the holiday season approaching, Klein says he’s worried family gatherings will contribute to the virus spreading even further, saying “It’s pretty scary with the holidays coming up. I myself want to go celebrate with my family, but have cancelled both Thanksgiving and Christmas in fear of passing it on to my loved ones. We definitely don’t want to see Thanksgiving family get togethers turn into Christmas family funerals.”

Klein says it’s more important now than ever for people to take the pandemic seriously: to wear a mask, social distance, and hold off on any social gatherings.

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