TORRANCE, Calif. - “It’s busy. It’s rough.” That’s how nurse Lindsey Burrell describes the Intensive Care Unit at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance.
She says, “We are seeing things that any nurse when you first began to be a nurse you thought you would never see." Burrell is one of the 1,700 nurses working at the Torrance hospital and one of 100 in the ICU.
When asked how many people have died on her watch she shakes her head and says “I don’t know... too many.”
It’s enough to deal with heart attacks and strokes, add to it COVID-19 and such things as the putting on and taking off of the protective equipment. "And on top of that the physical exhaustion that most of us are expressing. We are feeling the mental and emotional exhaustion," she said.
That’s the part they are not used to in dealing with critical care. She goes on to say, “And, we’re human and we feel it all and we cry. We cry just like family members do. We take this home with us.”
Burrell takes those feelings home to her husband and kids. “We are scared to death we will bring this home to our family, to our kids, to our husbands, to our moms and dads who might be compromised.”
She goes on to say, “I’m scared... I’m scared. I am. There are moments when I stand inside of a patient’s room and we might be intubating or running a code blue and I have that sense of anxiety that feels like 50 pounds on you."
That’s when she has to muster up extra strength and say, “I can do this and we will do this.” But, there are the private sobbing moments when she drives home from work, “And, I just plead with the universe ... just make this stop. It’s like we’re in a nightmare and I just want this to stop. I don’t want people to die like this anymore.”
Part of the problem is as cases increase the number of nurses in hospitals don’t.
“Nurses now more than ever... we are being spread thin,” she stated; and that can create a nursing crisis... especially on days when they call in sick. There are fill-in nurses known as “travel nurses” that come from other areas to help. At this hospital they use 85 travel nurses. Meanwhile, Lindsey’s mom works alongside her in the hospital’s ICU.
“I’ve been practicing for 47 years and this is by far the worst crisis that I’ve ever been in", said Lindsey’s mom nurse Julie Baker. She works alongside her daughter in the same ICU. And, as her daughter prepares to go back to work in the Intensive Care Unit Baker says, “Please I beg of you... wear a mask.”