"You will never live your full life if you're always living in fear": Mercedes' story

Spring 2021/ Interviewed by Jocelyn

I am currently a CNA working at a hospital in Riverside, but before the Covid outbreak I had finished my associates degree in math and science and just started going to school to become a CNA. I always wanted to be a registered nurse. The human body always interested me and helping others was always something I have done so out of all the occupations that help others, I believed this one suited me best.

I was taking a microbiology class in the spring semester of 2020 so I already understood how Covid worked and how bad it can get. We were already learning about the type of bacteria it was, how it affected the human body and what it survived on. At first I was excited that I already knew about that type of bacteria it was when we thought it would end quickly. Then I realized that it was not going to go away quickly and started panicking because during this same time, people were panicking to an extent where we had a toilet paper outage.

I tried to stay updated with the latest news when it came to the virus but throughout time it was just exhausting to hear so I didn’t tune in as much. I would from time to time to see when we will be able to get the vaccine or go out but other than that my thoughts on the virus were always the same. Stay in doors as much as we can to prevent from spreading it, maintain social distancing if we had to be out and isolate as soon as possible when we start feeling symptoms.

The media plays a negative role because there is a higher chance that the audience will tune in to a negative story than a positive one and what the news channels want are viewings so they’ll do anything for that. Even now I see stories on the vaccine but how negatively they can affect you rather than the positive outcome of the vaccine and that's another reason I stopped tuning in so much to the news.

Before I even started working at the hospital a lot of nurses of all types quit their job. RNs, CNAs, and LVNs quit because it was too much for them. Sometimes I think this job is not for me but most times I like what I do, I like my schedule and even though patients are in the hospital for who knows how long, I like knowing that I have done my best to make their situation better.

When I go to work and before going to my unit I grab two masks, a face shield, and what we call booties to put over our shoes. Then while I’m at my unit, depending on what type of patient I have I will also wear a gown, gloves are always a must and I still sanitize my hands every time I’m going in and out of a patient's room. Recently I have also put on a hair mask to protect my hair. There’s never been a time where we don’t have protective equipment.

Because we’re always short staffed and the less nurses on the floors the more patients each nurse gets. It’s a pain to have 20-30 patients when legally we are only supposed to have 10 at most but with the pandemic, rules get altered.

Since last March we were not able to have visitors but as of April we are able to have visitors now from 9am-7pm as long as they wear masks at all times. Unfortunately, before they weren’t able to see their loved ones at all. If patients had their phones they were able to FaceTime and on extremely rare occasions one person could see one patient. We have phones for patients as well so they were able to communicate with them if they didn’t have their phones.

I’m hoping everyone gets the vaccine and still wears their masks as a safety precaution until we’re fully in the clear. I think the Covid vaccine will be a yearly thing and once we are in the clear I still think people should wear their masks if they’re feeling symptoms and they have to be out. If they don’t feel symptoms of any kind then they don’t need a mask if they don’t want to.

People should take the right measures to prevent spreading it and continue to live their life normally because life is short and losing a couple years to a pandemic is not a great life to be living but I also don’t think people should go out clubbing and being irresponsible. I would tell everyone to not have so much fear because you will never live your full life if you’re always living in fear. Always take the right precautions and if you are still afraid then stay at home.

This interview has been edited for clarity and to protect the narrator’s privacy.