What it’s been like working on the frontline of COVID-19

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This article was written during our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and reflects the information available at the date of publication.

The global pandemic COVID-19 has changed the way our staff work in our hospitals and health services across Darling Downs Health. Some of our staff have been asked to take on new roles, work long hours, while others have had to set up entirely new clinics or wards to complete testing and treatment of COVID-19 cases. We asked four nurses who work in our hospitals across the Southern Downs to explain their experiences of working on the frontline of COVID-19.


Louise - Clinical Facilitator at Warwick and Stanthorpe Hospitals

How have you been involved in the COVID-19 response?

I have assisted with ensuring compliance with personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements, particularly with the graduate nurses, vaccinating at the super clinic in Toowoomba, testing patients and supporting our new graduate nurses throughout their first year of practice in the middle of the pandemic - they are an amazing, adaptable and resilient bunch!

Did you volunteer to be a part of the response? If so, what motivated you to put your hand up?

I volunteered to assist with the super clinic as soon as the call went out. I have the relevant endorsements to provide vaccinations, and I wanted to help in some way. We didn't know what to expect but were pleasantly surprised by the response we had from the community and the patience and gratitude they showed on these days.

How would you describe the past 18 months?

The past 18 months have been a challenge. Some of our staff attended the very first education session about this virus which provided us with the knowledge and direction on what our priorities should be to keep ourselves and communities safe. It was an uncertain time and there was genuine concern in the community.

As the situation continues to change and challenge us, it’s good to remain focused on the basic things we can do to keep safe such as washing our hands, social distancing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, mask wearing, when necessary, and now vaccination.

What was the biggest lesson you have learnt during this time?

The whole situation has been tough on our staff, and sometimes, the carers need to be cared for also. We are grateful to those who acknowledge the work we do, and we are lucky to be part of such a great team.


Katharine - Enrolled Nurse and Allied Health Assistant at Warwick Hospital

What is your role at the hospital?

I’m an Enrolled Nurse and have been employed at the hospital for more than 10 years. I also do casual shifts with the Allied Health team as an Allied Health Assistant.

How have you been involved in the COVID-19 response?

I've been involved in a lot of varied ways. In the beginning I spent a lot of time within the hospital helping to put in place social distancing spacing and making our environment as COVID-safe as possible. I have manned our front door during periods of heightened restrictions, ensuring state health directives about masks,

checking in, and restrictions are maintained. I've assisted in local testing clinics, and trained staff to correctly put on, and take off PPE (personal protective equipment). If it keeps us safe and meets a need, I'm happy to be involved.

Did you volunteer to be a part of the response? If so, what motivated you to put your hand up?

From early on I was fully aware of the severity of the possibility of this pandemic, and how badly it could affect us. I was happy to help in any way I could to make a difference to our community, but also to ensure our staff were as safe as possible. I have several friends in the US who have nursed through the height of the pandemic and speaking to them I knew how much this could affect our staff and teammates. It's important we all do our part. If our community is safe, we are safe.

How would you describe the past 18 months?

Inspirational. Even though it has been a frightening period with a lot of cancelled plans and disappointments, it has been so encouraging to see how our community can come together. I am so proud of how we have responded as a community, how Queenslanders and Australians have kept us safe by following health advice, even when it meant personal sacrifice, and how the health industry and scientists are responding to help us solve this crisis. When a return to normal seems far away, it really helps to think that every small action our community takes to keep us safe, is one step closer to us returning to a healed world.

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt during this time?

How important it is, in the midst of uncertainty and anxiety, to be kind. Every person has a story. We all have things we have missed out on and things that make us fearful. We are allowed to grieve what we have lost even though we are grateful, that as a nation, we are relatively safe.


Jeanette - Assistant in Nursing at Warwick Hospital

What is your role at the hospital?

I have worked as an Assistant in Nursing (AIN) at Warwick Hospital for the past six years, assisting and responding to patients’ needs and welfare.

How have you been involved in the COVID-19 response?

In April 2020, I trained in COVID-19 PPE donning and doffing (putting on and taking off of PPE) regulation and worked as part of a response team. I was one of the first “frontliners” to “take the jab”, thereby making me eligible to care for suspected COVID-19 patients. I also helped with COVID-19 screening and, when the opportunity arose, I worked at the testing clinics set up at the Warwick hospital.

Did you volunteer to be a part of the response? If so, what motivated you to put your hand up?

I was motivated to volunteer in the testing clinic because I wanted to do my part for the community. I was aware that we were dealing with a virus which had already taken the lives of millions of people worldwide. With family and friends in South East Asia, America and Canada, I was made aware of the danger this virus could bring.

How would you describe the past 18 months?

The past 18 months have been a challenge, both mentally and physically, but it has made me realise the true value of life. I have lived and worked in parts of the world where physical danger was the order of the day, but we can’t see this ‘enemy’, so we need a totally different awareness and approach.

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt during this time?

The biggest lesson learnt is the value of teamwork. Being frontline workers, we need to support each other.

A common mindset is needed to display calmness and helpfulness during a time of uncertainty. We are social beings, but with this tricky virus, the community must retrain with safe hygiene procedures. It’s easy to become complacent because Australia has an excellent health and hospital record, but I am confident we are up to the task.

I am so thankful just to be a small part of the solution to this pandemic that has gripped the world and the opportunity to share my experience.


Jo - Registered Nurse at Warwick Emergency Department

How have you been involved in the COVID-19 response?

I have been involved in the COVID-19 response team here at the Warwick Hospital for the past 18 months, which has included working in the drive-through testing clinic located at McCarthy House, along with the facilitation of testing throughout the emergency department.

How would you describe the past 18 months?

The past 18 months have been challenging for our staff who have worked very hard to keep our community safe. The goalposts change as we learn more about this virus and our staff have done an exemplary job in adapting. The health and wellbeing of our doctors, nurses, midwives, nurse practitioners and paramedics are essential to the quality of care that we can provide for people in our community, so I encourage everyone to be patient and respectful when visiting our local emergency department. We are all in this together!

Throughout this pandemic our doctors and nurses continue to adapt to these changes while showing compassion, skill, and dignity to their patients. I am so very honoured to work with such an amazing team of people who have become my second family! I appreciate every one of them.