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In Your Own Words

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Published on February 24, 2021

Courage carries the CCHC ED in the pandemic

In Your Own Words: Courage carries the CCHC ED in the pandemic

“Do what you know how to do. You will get to the other side.”
Charlene Poliquin, LICSW, FH ED

By Charlene Poliquin, LICSW, works in the Falmouth Hospital Emergency Department

I am an Emergency Department social worker, working full time in the Falmouth Emergency Department. I wrote this letter to simply share my thoughts and feelings regarding what it’s like working as a social worker in an ER during this pandemic.

This is a strange new world for me as a social worker as I am used to working with people who are suicidal, homicidal, struggling with mental illness or addictions of one type or another. I am accustomed to working with individuals who are homeless, or disenfranchised. I am even quite comfortable working with potentially violent and dangerous individuals.

However, here in the ER everything feels different NOW. I feel anxious and a bit fearful. I like to fix things, solve problems and help people. I am good in crisis, but I don’t know how to fix this, the enemy is invisible and potentially lethal to some. I am afraid of the toll this will take on my healthcare colleagues who have become family, our community, and our world.

I watch my nurses and doctors act with such strength, selflessly putting in long hours and caring for so many. I draw from their strength and feel more grounded, refusing to let anxiety and fear drive my emotions and intellect.

I pray for guidance and look for little ways to make a difference to those caring for so many. I remind myself that we will get through this one patient at a time, one hour at a time and eventually brighter days will come. I know loss will be inevitable, but I also believe that our community and world will become stronger and more cohesive in a way we have not seen before.

As for me, I had a dream the other night that I needed to pick up a friend on the other side of a river. I was told I had to complete a swim test and get to the other side. I did not want to participate but realizing that I must be there for my friend, I opted to put on a life vest and walk into a darkened tunnel of water with rapids ahead of me. I said, “I can’t swim. I can only do the dog paddle!” The people administering the test replied, “Do what you know how to do. You will get to the other side.”

I believe that we are heading toward the other side but wanted to share some of my observations.

It is noteworthy that there is not a moment’s hesitation by the nurses when a suspected COVID-19 patient comes in. Personal protective equipment is put on and care begins, seamlessly. Precaution signs go up on the closed door and a yellow infection control cart stands guard outside the patient’s room. As more and more yellow carts appear, I feel my own fear begin to rise. The environment feels surreal. It’s hard for me to make sense our present-day reality. I stand watching and notice that nurses are in and out of the rooms providing care with amazing professionalism. Nurses are so incredibly courageous and strong in ways I cannot even begin to fathom. I have come to believe with all of my heart that nurses are the real heroes of the ER.

In my dream, I did finally arrive on the other side, my friend waiting. I awoke and shared this dream with a friend, trying to make sense of it. Just do what you know how to do. If we all do just that, we will all get to the other side.

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