Victoria Nixon, BA, Registered Nurse, works at the Jewish General Hospital. She was interviewed by Christina Clausen on April 28th, 2021. She is currently on maternity leave but will be returning to the surgery ward this coming winter.
Victoria Nixon had been working as a nurse on the general surgery unit at the Jewish General Hospital for just two years when the pandemic hit.
"In the beginning it was almost exciting," she said. "Here I am at the forefront of this novel virus that we don't know anything about. This is, I thought, our generation's war. I'm ready to stand up and help."
During the first wave of the pandemic, Nixon worked on the newly created COVID-19 unit, which in those days, she said, was largely a geriatric palliative unit. "I [remember hearing] all the time, oh, a 97-year-old lady coming up from the ER, she’s coming to die," she explained. "It was a big learning curve in terms of palliative care and starting subcutaneous drips of say dilaudid or haldol, which as a surgical nurse I had never seen before."
It was also challenging for her mental and emotional health. "I was losing one patient a shift," she said. It was particularly hard for her to watch families lose their loved ones; she herself had gone into nursing after being inspired by the nurses who took care of her ailing grandfather.
"I'll never forget a 98-year-old woman who had a great quality of life. People thought in the first wave, well they are just the elderly," she said. “But it's, you know, the grandma who makes you chocolate chip cookies that is so involved with you and the family."
It was her first experience holding up the iPad so the family could say goodbye. "I won’t forget that," said Nixon. "I was shaking like a leaf and holding the patient's hand" while her five-year old granddaughter said goodbye.
"Unfortunately, I've lost count of how many times I had to hold up the iPad with the families saying, 'bon voyage maman.'"
"Your colleagues become family after you go through an experience like that."
For this relatively new nurse, it was her teammates who helped her deal with the stress. The unit quickly established a "buddy system" that paired nurses to manage patient care.
"We would always kind of look at each other" as if to say, "'It's okay, I have somebody with me,'" said Nixon. "Your colleagues become family after you go through an experience like that."
But it wasn't just her colleagues. There was one patient in particular who everyone got attached to, she said. "He’d been there for a couple of weeks and then his wife was admitted. We put them in the same room and then his wife went home, and he was very depressed." The patient had recovered from COVID, but he had other underlying issues; eventually he was sent to the ICU and returned as a palliative patient.
"He didn’t want all of the theatrics, he had made his decision," said Nixon. "We brought the wife back in and the wife knew all the nurses."
But it was the daughter that Nixon won't forget. "All of us went into the room and the daughter said, 'We’re here dad and all your K10 family is here with you. We’re all here with you.'"
The morning after he died, "we all got together in the nurses’ station and we shed a tear and talked about our memories of him," she said. "You don't always have the chance on a busy surgical floor, to get to know people to that level but when they’re with you for a long time, you get to know them. You know its family, it's that team that makes you know you're never alone."