Front line workers reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic

a Mayo Clinic health care worker, a white woman, perhaps a physician or nurse in full COVID-19 PPE attending to a patient in bed

With the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, many health care workers are feeling hopeful for the first time since the pandemic started. That’s especially true for Mayo Clinic’s front-line staff who have been in the thick of the COVID-19 response since Day One.

Watch: Front line workers reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality soundbites are in the downloads at the end of the post. Please courtesy: “Meera Patel / Registered Nurse / Mayo Clinic” and “Casey Clements, M.D., Ph. D. / Emergency Medicine / Mayo Clinic”

Dr. Casey Clements, an emergency medicine physician, diagnosed the first patient who was positive for COVID-19 at Mayo Clinic in Rochester in March 2020. He reflects on all that’s happened since.

“It has been really, really hard for nine months,” explains Dr. Clements. “The nurses and the respiratory therapists, and the doctors and everybody who has been working in dealing with this pandemic, has just really bent over backward nonstop for that long.”

Meera P. Patel is one of the ICU nurses who has been on the front lines, caring for patients with COVID-19 from the beginning. She says it’s been exhausting and emotionally draining seeing families torn apart by the disease.

“It’s hard talking with patient’s families and having to talk to patients themselves on why their families can’t be with them, having to set up Zoom conversations, and just having people crying about how they can’t see their loved ones through this horrid time. Holding hands with those patients who are dying, you turn into their family,” says Patel.

“Being there when they are passing away from something that’s preventable is heartbreaking, and it’s hard. It’s emotionally exhausting for everyone and emotionally exhausting for not only us as health care providers, but also family, as well, because they’re not able to be here with their loved ones.”

“What the public may not know is how hard this has been on us,” says Dr. Clements. “Things changed every day for a while. And we had to come up with entirely new ways to do things, and some of those are going to stick around. So just appreciating how difficult that was and taking a minute to take a deep breath, especially with this vaccine and in a hopeful look forward. This is really the first time we’ve had a lot of hope in this pandemic.”

Dr. Clements and Patel were among the first Mayo Clinic staff members in Rochester to be vaccinated for COIVD-19 in December 2020.

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Information in this post was accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations, may have changed since the original publication date

For everyone’s safety, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in an area not designated for patient care, where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.

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