Alberta nurse practitioner describes ICU during pandemic: 'We're feeling a bit defeated'

At the beginning of November, there were 28 COVID-19 ICU patients in Alberta. By the end, there were 96. Over the course of the month, hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in Alberta more than tripled. Sarah Ryan spoke to a nurse about what it's like working in an Edmonton intensive care unit.

A nurse practitioner and fourth year medical student from Edmonton is sharing her experience inside a hospital’s intensive care unit.

“We… feel like this is just the beginning and we are already so tired,” Brandy Love explained.

READ MORE: Alberta identifying ‘unconventional ICU spaces’ as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations rise

She’s been working elsewhere in the hospital as part of her rotations, but on Friday, Love picked up her first shift inside an ICU since the second wave struck.

“I’ve been a nurse for over 16 years and during that time I’ve been a nurse practitioner, mostly in critical care, for the last 11 years.

“I’ve worked through SARS, I’ve worked through another virus called MERS, I worked through H1N1 when it was really bad in 2009,” she said.

“I’ve just never seen anything like this before.

“It’s a combination of just how many patients there are right now, as well as just how sick and how debilitated they are right now.”

READ MORE: Alberta records 1,733 new COVID-19 cases Monday, 8 deaths

On Nov. 1, there were 28 COVID-19 positive patients in Alberta’s ICUs and 115 people being treated in other areas of the province’s hospitals. Those numbers more than tripled within the month.

As of Nov. 30, 96 people are in the ICU with COVID-19 and 357 are elsewhere in the hospitals.

When she started her shift, Love could tell the nurse practitioner doing the handoff between shifts was exhausted.

“I knew that she’d had a very, very long day, that things were very busy and very bad on the unit,” she explained.

“The first words I heard out of my colleague’s mouth were, ‘There’s two coming in. We think they’re both COVID. They’re both very sick.'”

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Love shared her experience on Facebook, saying that over the next 14 hours, she worked steadily, with little time for breaks, food or even water.

“We’re all just starting to feel pretty burnt out and in some cases, feeling a bit defeated.”

Love said after her shift ended, she cried walking home.

“I was just feeling really frustrated because… the people that I’m seeing are elderly, and the people that I’m seeing have underlying medical conditions – but why is that OK? Why are we OK with those people getting sick from COVID or dying from COVID?”

She said hearing about anti-mask rallies and people dismissing the dangers of COVID makes her feel even worse.

“It’s heartbreaking. It’s very difficult to keep your chin up and keep going on.”

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Alberta Health Services said it is working to hire more staff and realizes more beds could also be needed.

AHS plans to add 2,250 additional acute care beds and 425 ICU beds across the province in the coming weeks, as needed for COVID patients.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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