As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread throughout the United States, it’s clear that the country’s hospital system isn’t prepared for what’s to come. Hospitals are in desperate need of ventilators, and nurses and doctors now have to crowdsource on social media for essential personal protective equipment (PPE) like N95 masks, gowns, and face shields, to be donated as their supplies run out.
Medical professionals are likening their work to going to war. So, Cosmopolitan spoke to 10 women—some of whom asked to remain anonymous out of concern for losing their jobs—to see what it’s really like to fight COVID-19 every single day.
I am literally petrified to go home and possibly transfer the virus to any of my family members.
“I am a physicians liaison in a hospital that is one of Rhode Island’s testing centers, so the fear is even greater. I am literally petrified to go home and possibly transfer the virus to any of my family members. Please, please, please stay home if you are not in dire need of medical care. Potentially exposing us as health-care workers to the virus puts everyone in danger.” —Anonymous, 25, RI
We can’t get enough masks, gloves, or cleaning wipes.
“Everyone is scared. I work at an outpatient imaging facility and we can’t get enough masks, gloves, or cleaning wipes. Patients have cancelled exams, co-workers have gone on voluntary leave. Imaging students have been sent home, unable to finish required clinical hours. It’s not about fever or cough anymore. You literally don’t know if someone is carrying the virus.” —Anonymous, 29, Las Vegas, NV
It is an absolute war zone.
“It is an absolute war zone. Even in the worst flu season, we have never experienced something like it in the doctor’s office where I work as a nurse. It’s going to war without a gun, running out to an enemy who is hiding in the trees, waiting to attack. Young and old alike, those completely health and those who are compromised are being hospitalized.” —Ashley, 22, Newtown, PA
It’s horrifying knowing that if my client catches this virus it is my fault.
“I work in private nursing and care for elderly patients in their home. We’ve been extra strict about hand washing, sanitizer use, and having fresh clean clothes when entering a new home. But it’s horrifying knowing that if my client catches this virus, it is my fault.” —Kayla McNamara, 31, Harvard, MA
I was suppose to get married in two weeks but postponed because I didn’t want to put my family and friends at risk.
“I put myself at risk every single day working in a hospital. My mom is immunocompromised and my grandma is over 80. Due to what’s going on and the field I work in, I can’t see them right now. I was suppose to get married in two weeks but postponed because I didn’t want to put my family and friends at risk. If other people realized that staying home will help us all, this will get better.” —Julia, 23, San Antonio, TX
Every little thing puts me on edge.
“I still have to go to my hospital to provide patient care even though I’m terrified. In turn, I’m exposed to individuals on public transportation (I have no other choice), patients who visit the hospital, as well as other health-care workers who like me, are exposed to individuals getting to and from work. We see sick patients as it is, so hearing coughs and sneezes isn’t abnormal. But now, every little thing puts me on edge. If a coworker complains of a headache, my ears perk up. Additionally, I feel so scared for doctors and nurses who have to touch and treat these patients. This is very serious.” —Molly, 28, New York, NY
We are understaffed almost regularly.
“I work at a nursing home and the precautions they are taking to keep the staff and residents safe are not enough. We have people who have come back from traveling come in to visit their parents. We have people who are still allowed to take family members out. We are understaffed almost regularly and sometimes without even a registered nurse in the building, then told that it is fine. How is that okay?” —Sarah, 28, Ontario, Canada
We have been sold out of masks, gloves, thermometers, sanitizer, and wipes for weeks.
“Our normally busy pharmacy has seen business increase exponentially. While most people try to use the drive-through, plenty are still walking inside and using the counter. Most requests are for 3-month supplies of medications and early refills.
“There are also a lot of new prescriptions for multiple antibiotics like Z-Paks and Tamiflu. We have been sold out of masks, gloves, thermometers, sanitizer, and wipes for weeks. Yesterday when I came in for work, I saw we are out of stock on Tylenol.
“After Trump’s inaccurate declaration that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin can help COVID-19, hydroxychloroquine is back-ordered by manufacturers with no estimated date they would get more. Therefore, we have no medication for patients who take hydroxychloroquine routinely for diseases such as Lupus.” —Anonymous, 24, Long Island, NY
You spend all day prioritizing the needs of other very sick people before your own.
“When you work in health care, even on normal days, you’re dealing with anxious parents, kids, and patients. You spend all day prioritizing the needs of other very sick people before your own. You have really happy stories and really sad stories. All of that is even more extreme it feels like during this period in time.
“Right now, it feels like the calm before the storm where there’s preparation for things to get bad, only we don’t know when and we don’t know for how long. It’s also really conflicting: On the one hand everyone I know is sitting safely at home, many of them able to work and get paid from their couch, while I have anxiety going to the hospital every day as an occupational therapist. But I do feel fortunate that I am able to continue making income and not having to worry about job security. I flip between being upset that I don’t have a job I can work at from home and feeling lucky to get out of my house and continue to work.” —Jenna, 24, Houston, TX
Sometimes these guidelines change in the middle of a shift.
“Everything about work right now is so unknown. Being a nurse, especially in an ICU, I am used to stress and needing to be flexible, but this is unlike anything I’ve seen or experienced. I have to go to work early in order to be screened. I get daily emails about the new guidelines for the coronavirus and how we will handle it. Sometimes these guidelines change in the middle of a shift. We are given a brown paper bag to write our name on and one face mask for our shift. It’s scary going to work without the appropriate PPE, not only because of coronavirus but even the seasonal flu, I could bring home to my parents. I am now looking at temporary apartments so I don’t have to worry about the possibility of bringing it home to family.” —Ashley, 26, MI
You’re only being handed 3 of the 10 pieces you need to make the puzzle work.
“Fear, panic, and isolation have become more apparent than ever before in the workplace. It makes it hard to be a health-care provider and remain calm when you’re only being handed 3 of the 10 pieces you need to make the puzzle work.” —Cindy, 28, NJ