Risking their lives on the frontlines, health care workers adjust to a new normal

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Health care providers are working around the clock to test and treat patients with COVID-19. 

The desperate need for personal protective equipment (PPE) has been echoed far and wide. As we approach nearly a month of stay-at-home orders and work-from-home schedules, health care workers are adapting to their own new normal.

“I’ve been in emergency medicine for almost 40 years now, and I’ve never had anything quite like what we had in the past couple months,” said Dennis Guest, program director for Emergency Medical Services at Virtua Health.

Three of Guest’s five children also work in medicine — two are ER doctors. He said there’s a very real threat of bringing the virus home and infecting their families.

“Like my children, they have several small children at home, so it’s very fearful if they are bringing anything home,” he said.

Health care workers now partake in a new ritual at the end of each day.

“Changing our clothes, not wearing any jewelry. We take our wedding rings off. We’re basically getting washed before work and getting in the shower as soon as we come home from work. Changing into a different change of clothes in the garage or laundry area,” he explained.

Right now, Guest said everyone is experiencing an adjusted way of life — and we have to get used to it for a while.

Ana Silva, a nurse at Jefferson Health’s testing site in Center City, is also a mother of four and a graduate student at Villanova’s Fitzpatrick College of Nursing.

“It’s a little surreal,” she said of working in full PPE every day. “That consists of an N95 mask, goggles, isolation gowns and gloves.”

Guest’s routine is the same for Silva.

“When I get home, my neighbors have noticed,” she chuckled, “that I take off my scrubs and shoes and I walk in my house — obviously, I have clothes on underneath.”

From there, she puts on her “mom” hat to take care of her family. Her main concern is protecting herself and those she loves.

Amid all of this, she feels lucky to have the proper equipment and support from the hospital and her colleagues to soldier on. ​​​​​​​