Central NC healthcare workers still working tirelessly to care for COVID patients

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Even as COVID hospitalizations are down from the peak earlier this year in North Carolina, new COVID patients are still coming in hospitals every day and it’s taking a toll on hospital workers who are on the frontlines.

Jennifer Snell is a registered nurse who works in the Intensive Care Unit at UNC Rex Hospital.

“It’s still strenuous, it still takes a toll on you and it’s exhausting,” Snell said.

Snell has taken care of some of the sickest COVID patients over the last year.

“It’s so much different than what I’ve ever seen in my 23 years of nursing,” Snell said. “With the virus, the patients change. Sometimes they’ll be doing fine, then it may be a couple hours later and they’re not doing so great. Then we have to intubate them and put them on a ventilator.”

Snell said in her unit they have five COVID patients, but back in January during their peak they had as many as 24 COVID critical care patients.

“It’s gotten better, just because I don’t think I’ve been working as much,” Snell said.

Snell said while she is no longer working six-day weeks, she said she is still asked to work an extra day every two to three weeks as patients they do have are still very sick.

“Sometimes you’re spending 3 to 4 hours in a patient’s room depending on how sick they are,” Snell said.

Since the COVID patients can’t have visitors, she often is helping coordinate Facetime calls, and sometimes this is the last time these patients see their loved ones before they die.

“If we have to intubate someone and put them on the ventilator and they’re having to say goodbye to their loved one, you don’t know if they’re going to come out of it or ever see them again, that has been difficult,” Snell said.

While UNC Health and Duke Health have seen significant drops in COVID hospitalizations since the peak in mid-January, their hospitals are still seeing new COVID patients on a daily basis.

Snell’s message to the community is to not let your guard down yet, as the pandemic still is not over.

“It’s still out there, it still can make people very sick,” Snell said. “Continue to social distance, get your vaccine, and be kind to us,” Snell said.

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