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Tales of a Research Nurse completing visits during COVID-19, III

Debra Glisson, US Based Research Nurse

I have experienced things during the past year that I have never seen during my over 30 years working in the nursing field. As many clinics were suddenly shut down the need for Research Nursing to fill in the gap by doing more Home Visits. The entire patient experience has changed.

The first thing that was vastly different was the traveling. I have been onboard approximately 65 planes since May 2020. The first few trips I went on were a big learning experience for me. The car trip to the airport was not affected except you could visibly notice the traffic was exceptionally light. Interstates that were usually bumper to bumper were empty. Schools and businesses were shut down. Stores were closed. Restaurants were shut down.

When I arrived at the airport the long-term parking lots had been shut down. Even the short-term parking lot was decreased. So, finding a parking place was easy as no one was really traveling. They have started opening more spaces but still there is a lot of parking lots still closed. This varies airport to airport.

During the early months of the pandemic the number of passengers on the planes was decreased. I can recall planes there were only about a fourth full. Many flights had been cancelled. The airlines were practicing social distancing on the planes leaving seats open between the passengers. The flight attendants hand out hand sanitizer wipes as you enter the planes. It is required that we now wear mask in the airports and on the flights. No food or beverages are offered on the planes now. One positive that the airlines practice now, they unload the planes now by row starting at the front of the airplane. This decreases the crowding.

I can recall during one return visit I was coming back thru La Guardia Airport in New York. I was the only passenger in the entire terminal. There were about a dozen employees around but no passengers. Hard to believe.

Finding meals and food had been an ongoing issue for traveling nurses.

Restaurants have started opening with decreased seating but several months ago things were quite different. I recall arriving to a hotel in the late evening hours. The only food available was delivery. The hours the for the restaurants also changed. It was common that many places closed by 8:00 PM. If you arrived late you could not get food.

This included the restaurants in the airports. Also, the Hudson type shops in the airports were closed. I recall at one airport I arrived late in the evening. There was not even a place to get a bottle of water. The Car Rental counters had been shut down. I had not made a reservation and was planning to just walk up and get a car. Well, there was no one at any of the car rental counters there. They were starting to close the airport as my flight was the last one to arrive there that day. I had to resort to Uber as transportation to the hotel. Getting in an Uber vehicle was scary. Mask and lots of hand sanitizer is always available. I jokingly say I have become a “topical alcoholic.”

Pizza places seemed to be the most available during the early COVID days. I had so much Pizza I was sick of it. For breakfast you were lucky to get a granola bar. Hotel breakfast bars have also been closed. This still is the trend.

Finding a rest room was a challenge as well, as restaurants were shut down. I have resorted to truck stops for snacks and restrooms. On rural trips finding a service station open was your only hope for a rest room. Bring your sanitation wipes with you if you know what I mean.

One of my home visit trips required I transport a large hard-shell trunk with some credo shipper boxes in it to pack the specimens. Once they were packed, they were turned over to the courier for transport to the labs. We were experiencing a major shortage of toilet paper in my home area. Since I had an empty trunk to bring back on the plane I decided to see if I could find toilet paper in MA. The Walmart in their area had some but the supply was limited to one pack. I purchased a 24 mega roll package of Charmin and packed it in my trunk to bring back to NC with me.

I will have to say the entire experience even with all the challenges during the journey has been enlightened with the subjects and their families. I have had concerns about my own health and safety, but I just keep washing my hands and utilizing PPE as I perform my duties. Almost all my subjects have been very welcoming and grateful for my services. I have received many elbow bumps which warms my heart. It is these small gestures that makes it all worth it.

Even with all the challenges and inconveniences that COVID 19 pandemic has created I feel happy and blessed that I have been able to use my skills to help bring hope to our subjects.