ICU nurse describes work in the pandemic

Rachel Johnson
Posted at 5:54 AM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-10 08:57:37-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Since Rachel Johnson was a little girl, she knew she wanted to be a nurse.

But it wasn't until nursing school that she realized what kind of nurse she wanted to be.

"When I was in nursing school, my grandpa had a pretty significant cardiac event and he was in the ICU and his recovery was months," Johnson said.

It was that care she saw that inspired her to be a nurse in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit.

"That was probably the scariest moment of our whole family's life because we don't know what's happening, but their calmness and their thoroughness in explaining everything what that meant and what it could mean, just brought that with me through the rest of my nursing school," Johnson said. "To this day, that's what I strive for with my patients."

Johnson has been a nurse for six years and currently works in the Saint Luke's ICU.

When the pandemic first hit, she said it felt like walking into the unknown.

"We take care of sick patients but to have thought that a virus was gonna come in and change everything just like that, I could've never imagined," Johnson said. "I just remembered feeling nervous and scared not really knowing what to expect."

Johnson said she's seen the sickest patients she's ever taken care of during the pandemic.

Normally, it's two patients for one nurse in the unit, but Johnson said that with patients being as sick as they were with COVID, it's now one patient for one nurse.

"You get to know everything...all their labs, all their inputs, all their outputs," she said.

She's also connecting with families through screens and phone calls.

"There's been a lot of tears over the phone calls because loved ones want to be here, they want to see these milestones that we're seeing," Johnson said. "They're heartbroken to miss things, they're heartbroken to not be there if something's going poorly."

Johnson said it is heartwarming to share the positive milestones with family members and being the bridge that fills that gap.

Fast forward to a year since the pandemic started, Johnson now says she's hopeful.

"It doesn't feel like it's so scary anymore. We know how to handle this, we know how to take care of COVID patients," Johnson said.

She said as it gets warmer and more people are heading out, she urges everyone to stay diligent.