COVID-19 impacted both my professional and personal life in both negative and positive ways.
I truly believe COVID-19 has forever changed the way we do things and has placed a focus on infection control like never before, which can only be a good thing.
I took on the role of Group Coordinator of Infection Prevention and Control in a part-time capacity in late November 2019, with a plan for a six-month secondment. By the end of January I was full-time at Group and part of the Coronavirus Emergency Response Group (CERG).
When I think back to those days, there was constant change around screening and management for COVID-19 and trying to balance things across three states was very challenging. I felt an enormous sense of responsibility, with the safety of our patients and caregivers the utmost priority. At times there was a profound silence from state jurisdictions and we were required to make decisions based on best practice, and I think we did that well within the CERG team.
I worked exceptionally long hours and would often leave for work in the dark and go home in the dark, wondering if this would ever end. The support I received from the CERG team was amazing.
One of the positives was learning about so many other parts of the organisation and how we all work together to provide care and support to our patients and clients. I remember a particular day when I received a parcel in the mail, which was a thank you from a St John of God Accord client for the work we did, and I cried. Right there and then, I realised how much this virus affected everyone else too and how valuable our work was.
COVID-19 has also had a huge impact on my family. My husband and eldest daughter are also frontline workers, but we were amazed at how generous our friends were with providing meals for us in the beginning when we were all working long hours. Our son was meant to be living in Japan for the year but instead had to stay home (so that was a bonus), but when we put our youngest daughter on the plane to return to University in Queensland in February 2020, we did not know we would not see her again until the end of November. That was really hard but, once again, we found the kindness of so many humans who took her in as family during that time.
I have learnt so many things from this whole experience and I think the biggest was to believe in myself. There were many times that my knowledge was challenged but I just had to follow what I had been taught, such as the basic principles of infection control. I also learnt that there are so many exceptional people in our organisation who are willing to help, including the amazing infection control teams at sites.
I think as an organisation we have also demonstrated how agile we are, adapting and changing as the pandemic progressed, introducing telehealth and supporting our caregivers in working from home.
COVID-19 is still a major part of the work that I am involved in and a huge part of my role now involves trying to blend that into business as usual activities across our sites and services.
As someone with a respiratory disease, I am looking forward to getting the vaccine and I am hoping that all our caregivers will take the opportunity to get it when their turn comes. I consider the vaccine a privilege and I think of all the health care workers across the world who lost their lives and never had the chance to have the vaccine - we need to do it for them.
Caregivers of COVID
The Caregivers of COVID series shares the stories and experiences at St John of God Health Care that made most of 2020 so extraordinary.