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Working in a NICU During the Coronavirus Pandemic A local pediatric physical therapist shares how COVID-19 is affecting her work and home life

Jess Smith, a pediatric physical therapist, talks about working in a NICU during the coronavirus pandemic
Courtesy of Jess Smith

In the May 2020 issue of Washington FAMILY, we met Jess Smith, a pediatric physical therapist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and a mom of three from Arlington. The conversation continued online, where we learned more about how she juggles taking care of her premature patients, her family and herself. 

Because Jess is a healthcare provider, we wanted to know what it’s like to work in a NICU during the coronavirus pandemic. So we asked! Here’s what the board-certified neonatal therapist told us:

Working in a NICU during the coronavirus pandemic
Courtesy of Jess Smith

As a healthcare provider, COVID-19 is affecting every aspect of my life. I feel so vulnerable walking through the doors of the hospital. Is today the day I will be exposed and risk bringing it home to my family?

In the NICU, we are wearing masks for the entirety of our shift. Are the babies affected by not seeing our faces, our smiles? Do they feel our anxiety? We know they do.

We are scrubbing our hands until our skin is raw. We are comforting parents who are worried they may become infected in their community or while visiting their baby and risk spreading the virus to the fragile patients of the NICU.

The emergency department, the ICU and those on the frontlines have it 100 times worse than me, but I fear if/when the virus gets into our unit. I love and respect every member of the healthcare team that keeps showing up for our patients despite their fears and anxiety.

When I get home at night from work, I am a disinfecting maniac. I enter my home through the basement and immediately take off my shoes, coat and clothing and head to a scalding shower. After showering, I use a sanitizing wipe to wipe every single thing I touched, from the light switch and shower handle to my steering wheel and purse.

Although, I still worry, I am honored to serve my patients and their families. I still can say that my job is my dream job. This pandemic simply puts everything into perspective. So far I have learned a lot of lessons in life, but the one that keeps screaming at me is the importance of surrounding yourself with people you love.

We want to know how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting your life. Please submit a personal essay of no more than 400 words, along with a photo, to our editor, PJ Feinstein, at PFeinstein@midatlanticmedia.com. We’ll be in touch if your essay is selected for publication.

About PJ Feinstein

PJ Feinstein is the managing editor of Washington FAMILY. When she's not reporting, writing or editing, she's schlepping her two sons to their after-school activities or walking the family dog around the neighborhood. Despite being chronically sleep-deprived, she can't stop binge-watching TV and scrolling through her social media feeds late at night.

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