SAN DIEGO — One year since the pandemic hit San Diego County, FOX 5 spoke with a head nurse who has been on the frontlines taking care of some of the region’s most critical patients.
“At the beginning it was a little hectic,” said Eddie Wagner, nurse manager of 7 West, the cardiopulmonary floor at Sharp Memorial Hospital. “We were building the bridges as we were crossing it and everybody was scared.”
Wagner has been with the hospital group for almost 25 years but was in the the role of nurse manager for six weeks before coronavirus hit San Diego.
“I had to garner the trust of our staff members and be out there supporting them and having my open-door policy, which I do,” Wagner said.
“These patients are in isolation rooms and behind closed doors so it’s really, really scary for the patients,” Wagner said.
He says the fact that his team of nearly 100 nurses and associates were trying to care for patients’ medical as well as emotional needs was a challenge in itself.
“Here are the nurses taking care of them but they’re all suited up so they can’t even see you as a nurse,” Wagner said. “You’re behind all this personal protective equipment. These patients did stay quite a while in the hospital. They weren’t quick admission and quick to discharge.”
He says some stayed in isolation without physically seeing any family for months. He says witnessing all the patients who died over the past year was another experience he won’t be able to forget. They would lose up to three people a day, but there was one time they lost six.
“It was really devastating for the staff,” Wagner said. “I remember I went down and talked to my boss and she came right up to the floor to really check on the staff. Chaplain services were there to help the staff make it through their shift because we never experienced that.”
Based on what Wagner experienced, December and January were the hardest months of most people’s nursing careers. However, with vaccinations increasing and COVID-19 cases decreasing, he’s finally seeing the light at the end of what has seemed like an everlasting tunnel.
While there was a lot of heartbreak and sadness that came from the pandemic, Wagner says it’s brought his team closer. He credits the hospital for that and taking such good care of all employees. He says Sharp did a great job ensuring the resources were there for everyone’s mental health and wellbeing.