A Frontline Healthcare Worker’s Perspective in Fighting COVID-19

Working in a COVID unit in the height of the pandemic

Nearly a year into the pandemic, US hospitals still face major hardships.
Illustration by April Kinney • The Sentry

The United States currently remains the leader in COVID cases and deaths, with over 20 million cases and over 400,000 deaths. Frontline healthcare workers are being relied on more than ever to help treat patients. Working inside a COVID-19 ward is the absolute frontline on fighting the virus.    

Laura Enssle, a dietetic intern at University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center has seen firsthand what it’s like fighting COVID on the frontlines. Prior to being accepted to UCSF’s program, the native Coloradan attended Front Range Community College for two years for prerequisites. Following Front Range, Enssle attended Johnson and Wales University in Denver and received an associate degree in culinary arts and an undergraduate degree in nutrition. Following Johnson and Wales University, Enssle received a master’s degree from Colorado State University in Food Science and Human Nutrition.  

During the beginning of the pandemic, Enssle was working as a Diet Clerk at Boulder Community Health (BCH), where she started working in September 2018. Enssle moved to San Francisco in July 2020, and began working with patients in the hospital. Over the last several weeks, Enssle has been working in the ICU. 

“I will say that as the numbers have risen, we saw after Thanksgiving, quite the surge… We started to see that you just can’t keep all COVID patients in one place, they have to be in negative pressure rooms. So basically we had to start spreading them to different floors of the hospital, which is unfortunate,” said Enssle.  

California has one of the highest rates of infection right now and yet they’re reopening. “San Francisco in general actually closed down early, so basically, they set a threshold where once you’re at 15 percent ICU capacity, you have a stay-at-home order, said Enssle. “We locked down before that, around pre-Thanksgiving time. It was to preemptively anticipate the numbers we thought we were going to see. I think it helped keep things at bay, so UCSF has done pretty well and it’s definitely not mayhem in the ICU.”

 Enssle explained that there is no option to not work in the COVID unit. “This is something that you sign up for. When you say you want to be a medical worker, when you say you want to be in the field of medicine; you know you are going to encounter situations where you are putting your health at risk,” she said. 

Enssle’s personal experience on the frontlines of COVID gives the unique knowledge and perspective on how the US can help better fight the virus. “I think it’s kind of a message that has been said over and over again, and that is: you do have to be careful especially around more vulnerable populations. It’s very, very unfortunate but we have had several cases where retired homes, senior homes will have a breakout, and then we see a lot of patients come in,” said Enssle. “Just being really careful about who you are in contact with, and if you know that one of your friends or somebody that you’re with is at higher risk than you need to be extra careful, it’s really no joke. COVID is not the flu, it’s different”.  

Like many other frontline medical workers, Enssle remains focused and vigilant in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a selection from the Feb. 3 issue. To view the full issue, visit: https://online.flippingbook.com/view/335373/

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