Behind the Covid Unit Doors- One Nurse’s Perspective

This post is from the perspective of me, a covid travel nurse. This does not represent the opinion of any institution or facility, all thoughts are my own. This post is a recap of being a night shift nurse on the Covid Unit, and may be triggering to health care workers and those who they or their family were on covid units.

I step on to the elevator. Deep breath as the door closes. The start of another shift. Wondering who will still be alive from my previous shift. Who was sent to ICU. Maybe someone was discharged, but most likely not. The doors open, I step onto the floor. It’s an eery feeling, unlike any unit I have been on in my career. Every door is shut. Isolation signs and isolation carts in front of every room. Nurses in N95 and face shields. You can feel the tension and stress of the unit. The nurses station is full of O2 saturation alarms. The average O2 sat is in the 80s (90-100 is normal.)

Get report, all 5-7 (safe ratio would be 3-4) of my PCU (high acuity) covid patients are not doing well. Maxed out on high flow oxygen or CPAP (highest amount of oxygen support before intubation.) No one can leave their bed. Most are so weak they can’t even turn on their own. You may have a CNA (nursing assistant) and you may not. If you do, they are also overwhelmed and overworked.

Start your assessments. Everyone is dusky in color, eyes tired and scared, struggling to breath. The sound of the HEPA filter (to make the room negative isolation) and the oxygen machines are loud. Combine that with an N95, surgical mask, and face shield- and communication becomes difficult. If you have a patient that speaks a different language, it becomes even more difficult. The high amount of oxygen causes a loud blowing on the translator phone. No one can hear anything. I have a vivid memory of a post partum mom, screaming into the phone, but the translator could not hear either of us. The translator finally made out what she was saying- “Am I going to die and never see my baby!?” This was before vaccines. I comforted and assured the mom. She lived. But that moment still haunts me.

The night moves on. You spend much of it rushing to people who are desating (oxygen dropping.) Calling Respiratory Therapy, who is truly overworked and overwhelmed. Attempting to comfort people. Putting bipaps and oxygen back on. Proning people (placing them on their stomachs.) Begging them to wear their oxygen, take their medication, anything to help them survive. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they cuss at you. We can’t force anyone to do anything. I educate and call doctors and families but sometimes, people just don’t care what I have to say.

Respiratory Therapist are the unsung heroes of the pandemic. I would not have made it through the past 1.5 years, but especially the Delta wave without them. Their kindness and calmness were amazing. They are absolutely brilliant at what they do. I am so thankful for them and the work they do.

The best word I have to describe behind the covid unit door is suffering. I can’t describe the suffering that I have seen in the past 2 years. People crying and begging for the vaccine. People asking what will happen to their spouse and children. Children begging on the phone for me to say their mom will wake up after I call to say they are intubated. I have face timed families many times to talk to their loved one before we intubate, because it may be the last. Most of the time, it was the last.

I have watched my coworkers fall apart in the hall. Heard the sound of complete terror when they call for help because their patient needs to be intubated or is coding. Upset because their patient’s children are their children’s age. It’s affecting all healthcare workers, from housekeeping to physicians.

Clock out. Walk to the car. It feels like I’m in a bubble. The world is so quiet, yet so loud. Finally make it to the car. It’s one of the first times I get to sit . I stare into space for a moment. Deep breaths again. Tears may come, but sometimes you are too numb. The nights off are somehow worst. I lay on the couch, and the pain is all consuming. Imagine the tears of my patients and their families. The children that don’t have their parents. The parent’s that don’t have their children. Couples that have died.

Working the Covid Unit

People do survive, people do get better, people get off the vent. But not enough of them. Most of my patients in the Delta wave were unvaccinated. I’m begging you to get your Covid Vaccine. Protect yourself and protect others. Yes, you may get covid when you are vaccinated, but you most likely won’t die.

I hope I have provided at least a touch of comfort to the patients and families I have cared for. I hope I helped them feel a little less fear, and a little more love. I am so very sorry to anyone who has been effected by Covid and have lost loved one. Who are suffering long term effect. I hope you know the healthcare staff are doing everything we can to help and save people. To comfort people. To my fellow healthcare workers, I love you. I see you. Please reach out for help. We all need it.

Please be kind and take care of each other. And check on your friends & family in healthcare.


If you are a nurse in any specialty, hospital or not, please consider joining my Nurses Supporting Nurses: Support Group. This is a safe and confidential group meeting once a week for healing , support, and community.


3 thoughts on “Behind the Covid Unit Doors- One Nurse’s Perspective”

Mark Weaver

Haunting . 😢


We are so grateful for your dedication, and sacrifices. And incredibly sorry for you having to go through this. Thank you for sharing your stories.

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