‘We are in a marathon with no end in sight’: East Tennessee nurses share frontline COVID-19 experience

Coronavirus

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Compare the job of a healthcare worker with a runner training for a marathon, on the surface, it’s confusing. The two are nothing alike.

However, when you think about the job of a healthcare worker over the last eight months, during a pandemic with COVID-19 and a vaccine that has yet to be developed, the analogy begins to make more sense.

“We are in the marathon with no end in sight and we’re tired and we’re fighting and running harder and faster than we have before,” Tiffany Lewallen, unit supervisor in the COVID Unit at Parkwest Medical Center, said.

The difference, she says, between a marathon and the work she’s doing now: On the run, she knew where it ended.

“What we want to do is take care of others and we often forget to take care of ourselves. So it’s been a really, really huge struggle for us to focus on ourselves and know that by doing that, we can provide better care for our patients,” Lewallen said.

Another member of the same COVID Unit, Amanda Makely, said her motivation, as many other healthcare workers may agree, are her patients.

“Think about the staff that are taking care of these patients and I make it my goal to show up to work for them, which that kind of hits on the perspective,” Makely, a nurse manager in the COVID Unit at Parkwest Medical Center, said.

When they went to school and dreamed of being nurses, this pandemic wasn’t what they had in mind. It doesn’t change their passion for what they do, but shines a spotlight on taking care of each other.

“Our peak in the area, not back in March, not back in April, even not back in May. It’s now that we’re hitting that after months and months of already dealing with all the changes and all the unknowns and all the uncertainty. And we’re tired now and now is when we’re really having to… Push and fight even harder,” Makely said.

So, how can we help?

These nurses, who see the impacts of COVID-19 every day when they walk into work, say we should keep ourselves as healthy as we can.

Wash our hands. Wear a mask. Social distance. If we’re sick, stay at home.

“We don’t want to scare the community into fear and not being able to live their lives and do what they need to do to keep themselves mentally healthy as well. But we just need to take care of ourselves as well,” Makely said.

There is also power in our words.

“You can start by thinking about us and praying for us, if that’s what you choose to do,” Lewallen said.

Notes of support are welcomed, too. Not just for Lewallen and Makely, but frontline healthcare workers across East Tennessee.

The links below have the address to the medical center where you can send thoughtful notes or letters of encouragement to East Tennessee frontline healthcare workers.

Claiborne Medical Center

Cumberland Medical Center

Fort Loudoun Medical Center

Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center

LeConte Medical Center

Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge

Parkwest Medical Center

More from Covenant Health Hospitals here.

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