Voices from the Front Lines : Meg Pyper
We recently joined hospital staff for a few days to document the reality of treating COVID-19 patients in UK HealthCare clinical settings.
This edited interview is part of our ongoing series, “UK HealthCare: Voices from the Front Lines,” highlighting stories and perspectives from our frontline staff who care for the sickest COVID-19 patients, day in and day out.
Meg Pyper has been a charge nurse in the UK HealthCare emergency department for twelve years.
Can you tell me what it was like to work in this emergency department before the pandemic?
Emergency departments are always challenging places to work. We’re dealing with patients who are dealing with acute illnesses that they weren't expecting. So, it's always been a challenging, stressful place to work.
But there's always variety – and there's always something new. We're the kind of department that we go with the flow. That's what we like to do – we call it organized chaos.
To us, it's organized. To other people, probably it looks like a mess. But we just adjust to any changes that occur. That's one of our strengths.
What has it been like for the past 17 months for you and your team?
You'll excuse me if I get emotional. I've had significant ER experience. I have dealt with losing patients my whole career and the aftermath of families losing loved ones my whole career. But COVID is something entirely different.
What we do is help people who can't help themselves. And families look to us to be able to do that. They beg us to save their loved ones. With COVID, there's only so many resources. And it's so new.
There's so much we don't understand about it that there are losses that we don't understand. We throw everything we have at it, and we still lose patients anyway. That's the hardest thing.
Losing families – it's the aftermath of the loss of a patient that's the hardest thing – seeing a family have to say goodbye to a mother through a pane of glass, catching a wife who's just heard that her husband didn't make it. They want an explanation, and we just don't have one.
We are struggling. It's hard to see that much loss and that much heartache and palpable sorrow for such a long period of time. And to have hope that maybe it's going to end and then have this second surge hit again has been devastating for many of us. It's hard. It's really hard.
What keeps you and your team going? What gives you hope?
We joined this profession because we had a desire to care for people. And that has never changed – our desire is to take care of people who need us. And we come together as a team. We work as hard as we can. We support each other.
We run into these rooms without hesitation. The risk is high, but it doesn't stop us from running into those rooms. And for me, I just cannot stress enough how crucial this vaccine is. We just don't have enough resources to take care of everybody. We just don't.
I know people think, ‘it's not a threat to me and it's not a problem for me.’ But just think about the people you love most in this world and how they would feel if you weren't there any longer. That's why we care about these people.
We care about each and every one of them. It doesn't matter to me what your socioeconomic status is, where you fall on political lines. None of that matters to me. I care about each and every patient that walks into this building, that walks into these rooms. And that's the people we want to save.
And we need help saving them. The best thing that anybody can do is help us save you by taking a step to help save yourself. These deaths are preventable.
And we're just overwhelmed. And we're short of resources. And we just need help to be able to save as many of you as we can. I hope at the end of the day that people start listening and people start doing what they can to help us help them.