Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Trumps Test Positive: Initial Thoughts From a Frontline Worker For Fellow STNAs

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 2, 2020

As a healthcare professional working in long-term care facilities, and personally, having high risk factors, I have been absorbing every bit of information I can get on COVID. For me, the Trumps testing positive was confirmation for my paranoia concerning COVID. After all, regarding paranoia in general, just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean something is not really out to get you.

It can be summed up best by a conversation I had with my cardiologist yesterday: little is known about this virus; the best we can do is go to war against it with the best theories.

You disagree? Well, let me share my firsthand experience: the virus does not hit the elderly all that hard. In my neck of the woods, people in their 90s, and even 100+, breeze through with no symptoms at all. FEW people who have it run a temperature, but they may have great difficulty breathing. In my neck of the woods, co-workers and their families ages 40-50 get hit the hardest and barely pull through. That’s not the conventional narrative.

We do know that it is highly contagious. More than likely, if you are a frontline worker, you need extreme diligence and a little luck. There are surefire ways to prevent healthcare workers from getting infected on the job, but few, if any, long-term care facilities are willing to make the effort. The notion that outbreaks are occurring in long-term care facilities despite best efforts is far from being the truth.

All in all, healthcare workers need to take care of themselves. I can tell you, before things got real in the LTC facilities, I was wearing medical goggles in facilities that had “no confirmed cases.” I also had my own infrared thermometer and oximeter. I also paid attention and listened closely to conversation among nurses. From the beginning, I treated every resident as if they were positive. Early in the pandemic, I brought it to the attention of a nurse that a young guy I was caring for had a low-grade fever. When I went back to that facility a week later, the same guy was in the COVID unit. When I am aware that I have dropped the ball in a particular situation, I quarantine myself for at least 10 days. I do what all my co-workers should do, especially being STNAs; I am continually upping my game. As STNAs, we are the ones in closest proximity to the residents for longer periods of time BY FAR. I no longer take off my PPE inside the facility under any circumstances. If I need a drink, I go outside and doff /donn PPE according to standard precautions. This virus travels through the ventilation systems; the break room is not safe.

By the way, we also need to fervently resist the temptation to let our guard down when we are not at work. Going in and out of stores should be thought of as going in and out of resident rooms. Wear a KN-95 mask when appropriate.

I saw a really cool thing yesterday. Two aides apparently work as a team on a COVID unit. They donned each other outside, took a selfie, which I found cute, and went inside. They will watch each other’s backs on the unit and do a team doffing when they are done. Aides are getting smarter about this whole thing, and the youthful, “It ain’t goin’ to happen to me, and if it does, I’m young, so…” mentality seems to be history. I imagine these two aides made this arrangement a condition for working on the unit: good for them; that’s smart.

Now, finally the point here: the fact that the best scientists around can’t protect the leader of the free world from COVID is very telling. We know the Trumps are big on prophylactics, and apparently, that didn’t work. My cardiologists shared his skepticism about that yesterday. He visits with me dressed in full-blown PPE which for some twisted reason I find amusing, but also telling as well. When you are at a facility walking down a hallway towards nurses and aides, a parting of the red sea takes place. It’s amusing because it seems like a ridiculous overreaction. But is it? I don’t think we know, but we laugh anyway and refer to it as “the Rona.”

And here is something that is painful: in hair solons where mask wearing is mandatory and is also the epicenter of bad mask wearing and bad mask science, the spread of COVID is nonexistent. The only exception is an outbreak among stylists when only the stylists were required to wear masks. Go figure. It makes no sense. I was in a solon yesterday and half the people were wearing the damn things under their noses which drives me completely out of my mind with annoyance.

Despite all of the reassuring statistics about COVID, why should we be scared of it? Here’s why: this virus plays by its own rules. Follow the science? How? This COVID virus doesn’t even follow the science.

Will the Trumps be ok? COVID will decide or God will intervene if He wants to. Prayer is a really good idea on this one.

COVID has taught me a lot about my fellow aides and greatly increased my respect for them. Yes, most of them eat their own and are “meaner than striped snakes” as my grandmother used to say about some people, well, actually, many people, but nevertheless, they are truly devoted to LTC residents. Regardless of knowing facilities see them as rubber bands (you stretch them till they break and then buy new ones as cheap as possible), they forgo dwelling on that and come in every day for the residents. Sure, they bitch a lot, but it’s mostly venting. I have come to realize that aides really do love the residents, and especially during the COVID pandemic, they really are the only family some residents have.

But what makes me proud of them of late follows: COVID has made them smarter about taking care of themselves. And the latest news about the Trumps should make us more and more attentive to the risks of COVID.

Aides need to continue to up their game and look out for themselves. The facilities are making some fundamental mistakes. When they are past an outbreak, they are dismantling their COVID units, but when fewer and newer cases arise, they don’t want to revamp the units for various reasons. The results? We are working in units that are “kinda like COVID units” and are being called other things that are softer terms. I noticed lately that “hazard pay” is now “crisis pay.” “COVID units” are now, “isolation units.”

To my fellow aides I would suggest we remain vigilant. My STNA teacher addressed many situations by looking aides straight in the eyes with a stern look on her face while saying simply, “remain professional.”

That’s what we will continue to do. To the degree that we advocate for ourselves, we will be able to advocate for residents which is our job description by law.

Up your game every day.

Paul Dohse STNA/MA-C

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