#IamMGH tells the story of our people. Meet, Andra Lorbergs, a registered practical nurse in the emergency department (ED) at Michael Garron Hospital (MGH). As part of MGH’s work assisting local long-term care homes (LTC) during the COVID-19 pandemic, Andra volunteered her time and skill set as a nurse to help the LTC homes’ staff and residents stay safe. This is her story.
“I didn’t realize that nursing was for me until my early 20s. My mother had hinted at it for years, knowing that I was interested in health sciences and that I loved to interact with people, but it took me a bit longer to figure that out for myself. I wanted a job where I could interact with different types of people every day. That’s exactly what I do in the ED – I interact with patients, their families and my colleagues, helping guide them through a brief portion of their health journey.
When COVID-19 emerged in the community, I felt a lot of anxiety sitting at home. Watching the news and waiting just wasn’t for me. When asked if I would be willing to help out at a local LTC home in addition to my shifts in the ED, I jumped on the opportunity. On my first day, I shadowed one of the Nurse Led Outreach Team (NLOT) nurses – I will never forget that day. We went to multiple LTC homes and it was eye opening to see that the staff and residents of these homes were being hit hard by this pandemic.
I’ve primarily been working out of one home doing a variety of tasks – obtaining swabs from staff and residents, providing education about personal protective equipment (PPE) and performing emergency assessments for residents so they can avoid the ED during this time if possible. I frequently update the residents’ families over the phone or facilitate a video conference and it is a sobering reminder that the people living in these homes have loved ones who are worried about them, concerned for their well-being and just want to know they’re being cared for. They have expressed their reassurance when we tell them ‘We’re from Michael Garron Hospital and we are here to help.’ There are days when I feel like I can offer the most help just by letting a staff member take a break and cover their workload while they take a drink of water or call their loved ones at home – it’s the smallest things that make a difference when you’re working so hard. As a nurse, I just want to do whatever I can to help.
Looking back on the last few weeks, I’ve realized how this experience has brought me full circle. In the earlier part of my career I worked at the bedside with a nursing resource team on a variety of units, including alternate level of care and palliative care. If you would have asked me then, I would have thought that those roles were stepping stones to get me where I wanted to be in my career. I realize now, that although my heart will always be in emergency medicine, it is exactly what I’ve learned in each of these roles that is empowering me to work at the LTC homes.
Prior to coming to MGH, I didn’t know what it meant to work at a ‘community hospital’. You meet local community members who come as patients to the hospital; they tell you their kids were born here, or their siblings received care here. It’s these same people – these community members – who are helping support MGH through COVID-19 by sewing masks, donating PPE and even leaving signs and drawings to show their support. It really is an amazing feeling. I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to work during this pandemic and do my part to help however I can.”