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Nurse Camille Marshall works in the ER wearing a mask
April 11, 2020

Rising to the occasion: a frontline nurse’s perspective

Camille Marshall is a registered nurse with more than 20 years’ experience. In late March, she sent an email to her colleagues in the Emergency Department at Hamilton General Hospital to thank them for being such a strong team, and to encourage their resilience in light of the coming COVID-19 situation.

 

“At first the idea of having to be directly in the room feels daunting. But once I got over that fear/anxiety, I remembered that this is what I do every day: look after critically ill patients. This might be a more stressful situation but I’m equipped to do it and I’m not doing it alone. I have a team of people working together to get the best outcome.

“I just want to encourage everyone because I know this is a very difficult time in our careers – it’s downright scary. I just want to remind you guys that we are equipped to do this. We always rise to the occasion and this time is no different. Let’s encourage each other and hold each other up.”


When asked, Marshall agreed to share her message more widely, as the response from her team had been so positive. Here’s what she said, in her own words:

Thanks for your interest in my email. I’m honored and humbled that my manager shared it. I have been a nurse for 23 years, most of which I have spent working in the ER which means I’ve been exposed to a lot of critically ill patients. However, I’ve never had the experience of working in a pandemic. This experience has reinforced what I already know about myself, that I’m resilient and will adapt to whatever situation I’m in to get a positive outcome.

My reason for sending that email was really to let everyone know that it was okay to feel fearful but it was also okay to remember that we are equipped and fully capable to handle any crisis as long as we work together as a team.

However, this time it’s different because even though I consider myself to be someone who is able to put things into perspective and see the light at the end of the tunnel, I’ve had days where I’ve had to feed my faith instead of my fear. After sending out that email, I received a lot of positive feedback from my colleagues. They appreciated the encouragement and the reminder that we have it within us to get through this challenging moment in our careers.

Prior to COVID-19, the ER was extremely busy with a high volume of patients with high acuity. Those days our biggest challenges were having enough space to see all the patients arriving in ER so that they can get the best possible care.

In the past, we also had to figure out how to deal with our own emotions as well as that of family members, for example trying to resuscitate a young boy whose father witnessed his terrible accident and then having to let that father know that his son didn’t make it.

In times of crisis we can all choose to take the path of compassion, courage, understanding and hope.

These days the volume has decreased somewhat but not the acuity. In addition to that, we now have to take extra precautions due to the pandemic while also preparing ourselves for the worst scenarios. Having to deal with our own emotions is more magnified now as we go home to our families each day praying that we are not bringing home the virus to them.

My reason for sending that email was really to let everyone know that it was okay to feel fearful but it was also okay to remember that we are equipped and fully capable to handle any crisis as long as we work together as a team.

I do believe that the message of hope and courage applies to everyone at Hamilton Health Sciences, whether you’re working on the frontline or in administration, as we all have been impacted by this pandemic. In times of crisis we can all choose to take the path of compassion, courage, understanding and hope.

Camille Marshall