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Masks, Sickness, and War in the ICU

Updated: May 23


How has your experience been as an ICU nurse during the pandemic?


"It's been a crazy experience with lots of emotions of happiness to sadness to being very scared of what’s to come— not knowing how to care for these patients, especially not being able to have their family by their bedside during this scary moment. So we are basically their family and the only face that they see. We could very well be the last face they see.

The most stressful part is that day to day there is new data, new things coming out about how to care for these patients during the pandemic. And that’s probably the scariest thing, not taking care of them necessarily because this is our job. But the way we stay strong is that we are a very tight unit, we love each other— and truthfully if we didn't like each other we would never get through it. The staff is a very close knit of nurses of all ages. And with doctors, respiratory therapists, nursing, secretaries, everyone— we stick together and that makes our unit strong to get through this tough time."


Micaela Sweet RN BSN is a Critical Care nurse at Rhode Island Hospital

What does it feel like before going into the ICU floor?


"I feel very apprehensive now before starting a shift— almost like my first year of fellowship— because all of these people are so sick. Before I come here, I am more scared— but once when I’m here at work then it’s just taking care of these patients; and knowing that you have to be very quick on your feet to know what’s going on— because a lot of things can go wrong at the same time or a lot things going on with multiple patients.

I think you need venting off strategies— for pressure. I’ve been talking a lot to friends and family— more than before. Trying to do things outdoors, getting fresh air. And a bottle of beer."

Abhinav Misra MD is a third year Pulmonary Critical Care Fellow at Brown University

I know Rhode Island Hospital has prepared well in terms of securing PPE and protecting their healthcare workers. What goes in your mind as your enter the ICU floor and put on PPE?


"As I put on the PPE (personal protective equipment)? It reminds me of when I did a surgical rotation as a medical student— making sure that I am sterile and then I put on my PPE step by step, mentally preparing for what I am about to face in the “warm zone.” I feel like— they call it the “warm zone” to make it sound less intense but it feels like a “war zone.” As I enter the “war zone” and put on my gear and see everyone else, all the other health care workers have the same gear on— I feel like we are warriors fighting together.


I get a chance to take off the PPE when I go to the break room. When I take small breaks when I can, when I get rid of the PPE, I feel like a normal person again, I feel like a mother, a wife. In the quick break I get I look at the photos of my family and I am reminded that I’m human."


Jisoo Lee MD is a third year Pulmonary Critical Care Fellow at Brown University

Photographer: H. Del Rosario


(While these frontline workers do not technically work in Worcester, their strength and sacrifice are still worthy to be shared and honored. Especially when one of them is Henry's wife!)


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© 2020 Henry Del Rosario and An-Hoa Giang

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