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Healthcare workers remain on frontlines of pandemic, while others are with family

The nurses say this year's frustrations have brought out all kinds of emotions from families as the hospital staff tries its best to help.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Holidays in the hospital is par for the course for healthcare workers.

"I've been a nurse for 13 years so I've spent many Christmases in the hospital, so that's nothing new," registered nurse in charge for UofL Health, Chasity Jackson, said.

But this one hits different for Chasity Jackson and Alexandra Rison, both UofL health registered nurses who have spent most of this year on the frontlines of the pandemic, and also spent Christmas caring for COVID-19 patients.

From the start in March, they said the struggle has been the unknown brought on by COVID-19, as they care for patients who can decline unexpectedly.

"You have to think quickly and I think critically," Rison said. "I think people have realized it's more than passing medications and listening to lung sounds."

"We want to take care of people and want to do the best things, but the information just changes so frequently that you can't become an expert in a subject," Jackson added. 

The nurses said this year's frustrations have brought out all kinds of emotions from families, that the hospital staff tries its best to help with.

"The anxiety for the families is the main thing. They miss their family member for sure, but it's just not knowing," Jackson said. 

And now, the holidays bring a different emotion.

"I recently had a family ask me is mom going to be home for Christmas and it breaks your heart because I don't have an answer," Rison said. 

Jackson and Rison said it's a sadder holiday away from their own families than usual, but a tougher Christmas for patients in critical care, that's made worse without visitors.

"That's going to be tough. We're going to have to step into that role and be there for them and bring as much cheer as we can on Christmas this year even in our full PPE," Rison said.

Patients this Christmas aren't able to join the hospital staff in holiday meals, instead confined to their rooms. But the nurses said they facilitated Facetimes with patients' family members.

"Just showing that you care means a lot to people and their families," Rison said. 

As COVID numbers rise and fall, the nurses said they see many in the community easing their habits.

"It's very frustrating for us because on some level that makes us feel like we are not appreciated. They don't realize how serious this is, they don't realize what we and these patients are going through every day," Jackson said. 

It leaves the nurses with the one thing they hope for most this Christmas.

"The best gift we could possibly ask for is people to take precaution, hold out a little longer, understand how serious this pandemic is and try to help us all get through this," Jackson said.

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