Mija, yes you can work through a pandemic.

Hola Mijas,

How are you doing? That might be a phrase you’re either tired of hearing or wish you would hear more often. Well, we hope you Mijas are doing amazing! We’re all struggling to get used to this new normal of staying at home and for most of us, working from home. However, millions of workers across the country are having to risk their life and the health of their family to perform a job that is now considered “essential” for today’s society.

We spoke to two Mijas who wake up every morning and head into work thankful that they have a job but scared for the unknown. Here’s how they’re doing:

Sarah Zambrano, Target Guest Advocate:
Sarah and her firefighter husband continue to work in the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

1.) How stressful has your job become since the COVID-19 pandemic?

Extremely stressful! I think we’re busier now than during the holidays! Every morning we have lines waiting for the store to open. Every time we re-stock within an hour our shelves are empty again. Our drive up option has gotten so busy. We need three employees working on them while another is still attending the guests for in-store pick ups.  Most guests are very understanding and patient which I’m grateful for.

2.) Do you take any extra precautions before, during and after work now because of COVID-19?

Yeah. Before heading to the floor I’ll wash my hands and then put on gloves, then I’ll put my mask on and I’ll wipe down all my equipment like my walker, earpiece and mobile device. I’ll keep switching out my gloves frequently during work. After work I’ll toss my gloves and put away my mask and wash my hands leaving and wash them again once I get home. As soon as I get home I’ll change and throw my clothes into the wash before I can hug and kiss my husband or my children. It’s tough sometimes trying explain to your kids why you can’t give them that hug they’re used to getting when mom gets home from work, but these days they are beginning to understand.

3.) How has this Pandemic opened up your eyes when it comes to the job you do and life in general?

It’s really opened my eyes because we’re the ones that help families stay fed and get their everyday essential needs to live their everyday life. However, it also made me realize how much we’re exposed to the public and how we are more at risk of catching the virus ourselves no matter how many precautions we take to prevent catching the virus.

4.) Everyday before you go into work, what are your thoughts? Are you scared, worried, thankful or mixed emotions?

I’m definitely full of mixed emotions. I’m scared because I don’t want to get infected and be the one that passes it on to my family. I’m worried because if I were to get infected I might be able to overcome the sickness but someone in my family might not and just knowing that if anyone I knew were to get sick because of me would devastate me. I think about not being able to be with them at the hospital or to care for them and that worries me the most. And of course I’m thankful for still being able to work during these tough times.

5.) Any advice to other Mijas who may be struggling between being scared to go into work but also blessed to have a job? 

Although it’s a scary time we should feel blessed to still have an income. Don’t feel ashamed to be scared, it’s normal. Don’t be afraid to be extra cautious at work. You’re going to get those customers who will get frustrated because they have to wait for us to wipe down counters or customers who will get angry at us because there’s not enough essential items in stock. Don’t let those angry customers get to you. Always be the bigger person and be kind. The world needs more kindness these days and if it starts with us “essential workers” then that’s a good start.

6.) What’s your message to those who may not be taking this pandemic seriously?

People won’t take things seriously until it happens to them directly. Which is sad but true. With life in general, we don’t really understand the severity of something until it impacts our loved ones, but we don’t ever want it to get that close. I would tell those not taking this serious to put themselves in the shoes of those who have lost a loved one or those who have recovered from the virus. Don’t be closed-minded when it comes to this virus. Those closed-minded people probably have the advantage of staying at home with their loved ones and working from home, but for those of us who don’t have that option, for those of us who need to go to work everyday to stock the aisles with essentials for families, we hope closed-minded people will consider taking this more serious so we can finally go back to normal and not fear going into work everyday. I rather be at home with my family safe and sound, but I have a job to do and knowing that others rely on me and my co-workers to do our job is what helps me prepare myself for work everyday.

Fill in the blank: Mija, yes you can…. ignore the rude customers and continue to do your job for those in need. 

Yoli Delgado, Las Palmas Medical Center; Palliative Care Coordinator/Registered Nurse
Yoli has been a nurse for 11 years now

1.) How Stressful has your job become for you and your fellow nurses since the COVID-19 pandemic?

Being a nurse in general is stressful especially working as an ICU nurse because you are taking care of very critical patients.  My focus has always been to be the best advocate for patient in every aspect of their care and this has been no different.  I would have to say a concern for all healthcare workers has been that since things are changing daily, it is hard to keep up with current planning, policies, and provisions the hospital has in place.  The goal as a healthcare worker is I want to feel ensured that our environment is safe so that we in turn can feel comfortable providing proper care to our patients.  Initially, the hospital begins by taking precautionary actions by screening all who came into the hospital and later on. This also included all healthcare workers that walked through the hospital doors. 

2.) Do you take any extra precautions before, during and after work now because of COVID-19?

For this question I am going to answer it in two parts.  First to give you some background information we were informed that corporate teams started planning in January and had developed clinical policies and operational guidance to assist with patient care.  We were also informed that our supply chain team had been working to secure protective gear for employees and physicians and having adequate amount of ventilators for patients.  That being said we were reassured that for the time being our hospital had an adequate supply of PPE however, as the pandemic continues to spread and the duration remains unknown we would potentially be depleting all our supplies quickly. 

We were educated on the importance of PPE conservation and the measures being taken.  Later, all hospitals in El Paso released a joint statement regarding a NO-Visitor Policy to reduce the transmission risk within our sites of care.  Of course there have been written exceptions within these policies, but the same measures that were in place previously still stood. The visitor must pass previously established health-screening criteria upon entrance into the facility and no visitors would be allowed to wait in the lobby or waiting rooms.  From my perspective I have always been diligent with hand hygiene but something that is new that we are allowed to do now is wear masks at all times when in the hospital.

Another thing even though I rarely did this, was now after work, I come straight home and take my scrubs off and shower.  I mentioned this because recently I have heard of incidents where healthcare personnel have been targeted when outside wearing their scrubs.  A woman wearing scrubs on her way to work stopped to put gas and she was shot at.  I understand that fear and anxiety during these stressful times has everyone on edge, but this is unacceptable.  We, the ones in healthcare, are the ones preaching the most about staying home because we see first-hand and know the devastation that COVID-19 has had and will have if we don’t follow such instructions. So, for people to think we would be out spreading it is just outrageous.  We are the ones most in fear of acquiring it and spreading it so we distance ourselves the most.  I for one can say I am a very active person but for me now on days that I am not at work I am at home unless I leave to pick up food or go for a run.  Sorry for my rant but just to reiterate the precautions we MUST ALL continually follow on a daily basis are:

  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Avoid large crowds
  • Practice social distancing

3.) How has this pandemic opened up your eyes when it comes to the job you do and life in general?

Honestly, my eyes really haven’t been opened up because from working in healthcare I have learned to always be prepared for the worst but plan for the best because you never know what kind of patient assignment you will get and no day is the same working in the hospital. 

As a nurse you need to be prepared for all scenarios.  I can say that this Pandemic though has shown that we are not as prepared as we think we are for the unexpected.  Hopefully from this we will improve measures and make it a top priority to pursue pandemic preparedness programs so we have the proper tools and are better prepared to respond to future pandemics.  Hospitals and other healthcare employers have the duty and responsibility to care for their patients but they in turn must be safely protected and the sad reality is we are now being faced with a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment needed from contracting the virus so it is inevitable that there will start being staff shortages when clinicians start falling ill with the virus. Then we will not have enough manpower to take care of the surge and then if worse comes to worse who will take care of healthcare providers?  As you can see this is a cascading effect so we must take measures to be prepared and governments should make long-term proactive investments in pharmaceutical agents, medical equipment, supplies, and basic research.

4.) Every day before you go into work, what are your thoughts? Are you scared, worried, thankful or mixed emotions?

I am not a person who gets easily stressed and that’s what has made me a good ICU nurse because I can handle the pressure under any circumstance because in an instant my patient can crash and I need to be able to respond quickly and that is basically how I attack everything in life.  Unexpected things will happen but we need to be able to face them to learn, but COVID-19 has placed a different type of stress because we are facing something we do not understand and all healthcare providers are truly going to be tested during this time. 

As a nurse I am continually learning to keep abreast with all the current innovations in healthcare but so far from all the research I have done regarding COVID-19 no one truly understands the pathophysiology of this virus and the presentation does not correlate with usual management, so we are unsure how to treat it so at this point treatment is just supportive.  The stress of this and potential exposure at work has everyone uneasy but we must lead by example and continue to follow proper guidelines to ensure our safety as well as our patients.  I love my coworkers because as we experience this together we continue to remain positive and keep our quirky sense of humor because we have to remain sane somehow! So to answer your question, from the time I walk into work even once I leave and I am at home I am filled with numerous amounts of emotions because I love being a nurse but at the same time I know the reality of this virus and the devastation it will bring to our city of El Paso if we all don’t take the proper measures to contain this.  We are fortunate that we are behind the curve due to our location and size of our city but for just that one person that does not follow these crucial instructions the virus will continue to spread. 

5.) Does your family worry because you’re on the frontline against COVID-19?

My family, especially my parents, are constantly worried when I go to work because they know that being at the frontline working in the hospital I have a much higher probability of contracting COVID-19.  The thing that breaks my heart, because I am so close to my family, is that if this worsens I will eventually not be able to see at least my mom and dad because I would not want to spread it to them but at the same time I know my duty as a nurse is to take care of my patients to the best of my ability because my profession is my passion and I would want anyone in healthcare to provide my family members with the same excellent care.

6.) Any advice to other Mijas who may be struggling between being scared to go into work but also blessed to have a job?

My advice would be to just be more cautions and mindful of your actions and most importantly stay vigilant on continuing to practice measures to prevent infection and steps to avoid exposure such as social distancing.  This is a frightening and uncertain time, but we have the power to help our situation.  It is vital to stay informed and also do your part to slow the spread of coronavirus.  It is natural for us to be scared but the best way to combat such feelings is to be proactive.  Do your part and stay safe. 

7.) What’s your message to those who may not be taking this pandemic seriously?

I have been a nurse for 11 years now so even before this pandemic I have always had a different perspective on life. I have been at the bedside caring for those who don’t make it and I have been with them in their last moments along with their family members and it’s heart breaking, so I learned early on that life is very precious and we should not take it for granted not even for a moment because we never know when it will be our time.  So after saying this I challenge each and every one of you to reframe your life’s current challenges because we are all going through this together, and continue to focus on how blessed we are to be alive.  Things have changed drastically for all of us and this should be even more of a reminder that things can change in the blink of an eye. 

Fill in the blank: Mija, yes you can…. Thrive through adversity. 

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