VOICES: COVID places incredible strain on emergency department staff

Michele Nadolsky, BSN, RN, has been at Dayton Children’s for 28 years, most recently as a clinical team leader in the emergency department, the region’s only level 1 pediatric trauma center.  Michele became one of Dayton Children’s first trauma nurse leaders in 2011; a program that has been recognized by the American College of Surgeons. Michele routinely trains new students and nurses from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Michele guides novice airmen through the intricacies of emergency medicine and prepares these troops for deployment overseas. (CONTRIBUTED)
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Michele Nadolsky, BSN, RN, has been at Dayton Children’s for 28 years, most recently as a clinical team leader in the emergency department, the region’s only level 1 pediatric trauma center. Michele became one of Dayton Children’s first trauma nurse leaders in 2011; a program that has been recognized by the American College of Surgeons. Michele routinely trains new students and nurses from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Michele guides novice airmen through the intricacies of emergency medicine and prepares these troops for deployment overseas. (CONTRIBUTED)

I’m a clinical team leader at Dayton Children’s Hospital in the emergency department (ED). I have never seen anything like the recent surge in patients in the 28 years I’ve worked here.

The closest comparison in patient volumes — and it’s not even a comparison — is the swine flu, but even that was nothing like what we’ve seen over the last several weeks. We are seeing record number of patients coming to the ED, seeking COVID testing and a significant number of respiratory illnesses, on top of the normal traumas and injuries — all during a time of year where we shouldn’t have high numbers. Winter illnesses arrived in August this year.

The number of COVID positive patients has doubled in the past weeks as more and more families are told their child was exposed to COVID. They are searching for answers in our ED. The severity of illness these kids have ranges from mild respiratory symptoms to intensive care and in need of a ventilator. None of the employees know when a patient walks in what kind of case they will have.

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The emotional state of the staff is an overwhelming sense of defeat. We are tired, we are mentally and emotionally spent. We want to do the best for the children we help, but we have never seen such a large number of different illnesses at once. We have a group of nurses who picked different career choices or decided to retire when COVID hit. Those nurses who choose to leave did it because of the emotional strain COVID has taken on all of us. We are doing our best and if it wasn’t for the fabulous teamwork and support we have from the top down and the bottom up, we wouldn’t be able to do this every day.

Physically, the strain has been immense. It’s not work I’m afraid of… it’s just hard. We are just trying to support each other and be there for each other. I can’t tell the newer nurses that it will get better next month because we have never seen this before and we don’t know when it’s going to end.

It’s my plea to families in our community: Please mask, social distance, wash your hands and get the COVID-19 vaccine for you and your children if and when they are eligible.

Michele Nadolsky, BSN, RN, has been at Dayton Children’s for 28 years, most recently as a clinical team leader in the emergency department, the region’s only level 1 pediatric trauma center.

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