“This is the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my career”: Area nurses, doctors reflect on first year of COVID-19 pandemic

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GREENE Co., Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– For the past year, nurses and doctors like Anna Telligman, Brandy Santus, Marlene Jerrell and Dr. Lance Payton have been on the frontlines caring for COVID-19 patients.

With more than 2 decades of experience combined, they say they weren’t prepared for this disease.

“I can say this is the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my career,” Telligman said. “There’s a lot of hope involved. There’s a lot of community effort and witnessing people come together. But I can’t say it’s anything I’d ever want to repeat.”

Jerrell said keeping up with the most recent information posed as a challenge.

“We get educated maybe once a year. There are changes, but they generally don’t happen every single day. With COVID-19, there’s a new recommendation every single day. We’re having to stay up to date so we can know what’s the best practice for that day,” she said.

For Telligman, the hardest part was watching families separate.

“Our visitor restrictions that you heard about on the news were all intended well and we were following guidelines. But looking back that was the hardest thing to have seen. “

Santus and Jerrell said they learned to lean on one another during the bad days.

“We work with each other day in and day out, just like you are with your family. That stress started to rollover into taking it out on each other,” Santus said. “You need an outlet. Now that it’s been almost a year, we have healthier outlets. But in the beginning it was challenging to even know what to do with those thoughts and emotions. “

Dr. Payton of Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes said keeping a positive mindset also helped.

“It’s invigorating in some sense to have something new to face and its challenges,” he said. “Trying to be as compassionate as you can by making sure you’re calling families who are waiting outside in the parking lot because they can’t come in with their loved ones. Trying to ease their fears and just taking it one day at a time and staying as positive as you can.”

Santus said she also learned a few lessons while caring for COVID-19 patients.

“It’s really taught me to value my family everyday. These patients that come in here, a lot of them aren’t expecting it to be the last time they’ll see their family. They aren’t even sick enough to have that idea until 4-5 days of being here and then they take a turn. “

Through it all, Telligman said they managed to push through as a team.

“You can learn it a million different ways. But sometimes you have to go through these very hard times to pull together and I think we did that and we did it really well,” she said.

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