Baden nurse Rogerson faces COVID-19 fears for the sake of her patients

“Although I would be very scared to go work with COVID patients, if they needed me to, I would. That’s what I signed up to do.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached Waterloo region, registered practical nurse Tanya Rogerson has required nerves of steel for her job at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener.

“I’m always quite anxious going in to work. I think that’s normal for every nurse now. We don’t know what to expect. We’re walking into a place where some germs are inevitable, despite all precautions, so we’re already scared,” said the Baden resident.

Rogerson works in the Endoscopy Unit, where colonoscopy and gastroscopy procedures take place. Some of the 18 team members who work with her have been transferred to other duties. “There are six to 10 of us at a time now, doing urgent cases. Our floor has been half taken over by beds, just in case they’re needed for COVID patients.”

She has changed her domestic and work routines to protect patients, coworkers, and herself from possible infection.

Rogerson enters St. Mary’s through the staff entrance, where people are spaced apart and answer screening questions: Do you have a fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, a sore throat, or runny nose? Do you have diarrhea, or vomiting, or feel unwell with any other symptoms? If all her answers are “no”, she enters, sanitizes her hands with gel, and dons a mask she must wear while at the hospital.

Anyone who answers “yes” to symptoms on the list must call the hospital’s employee health and wellness line at the screening station, then self isolate at home and wait for a follow up call with instructions within 24 hours.

In mid-March, Rogerson had to self isolate after she began to experience some of the symptoms of the coronavirus. She was given an appointment for a COVID-19 test by Region of Waterloo Public Health and felt relieved when her results came back negative.

“I returned to work 24 hours after having no symptoms. I guess it was a cold, or maybe the flu,” she said.

Even though two units at St. Mary’s recently declared outbreaks of the coronavirus, including a “small cluster of COVID-19 positive staff results”, the added personal risk hasn’t diminished Rogerson’s dedication.

“It’s very difficult now, not knowing what to expect, worried about our PPE (personal protective equipment) availability, but I love my job, and I’m happy to be there. Although I would be very scared to go work with COVID patients, if they needed me to, I would. That’s what I signed up to do,” she said.

Rogerson’s husband, Glen, is a physiotherapist, and she’s thankful to be married to a fellow medical professional. “We go to work together and come home together. We wear regular clothes into work, change into scrubs, and then change back at work when we’re finished. Those go into the laundry right away, and we need to shower right away.”

The Rogersons try to leave the stress of work behind, but it’s not easy. “We’re constantly thinking, what’s going to happen next? Are we going to be okay? It’s hard not to bring that home. We talk about it a little bit.”

Rogerson and husband Glen relax in the company of their Scandinavian hound, Harley. “Going for long walks and playing with him is very therapeutic.” Photo Tanya Rogerson

The couple unwinds with their Scandinavian hound, Harley. “Going for long walks and playing with him is very therapeutic.”

Rogerson organized a recent fundraiser through the Wilmot Stronger Together Facebook group to pay for lunch for staff at a local veterinary clinic as a show of appreciation.

She’s an avid animal lover, and owns “Kibbles n Sits Pet Services”, which she’s had to close during the lockdown. Nevertheless, she’s grateful that she and her husband still have jobs. “We’re lucky enough that we get to work. We’re thinking of all the people who don’t get to right now.”