This is an effort of the Baltimore County Federation of Public Health Nurses in conjunction with AFT-Maryland to highlight public employees who are essential workers on the front lines, providing needed services and resources to residents. Healthcare workers are vital and will be the north star to guide us through this global pandemic; they are constantly going above and beyond their assigned duties to help keep our state and municipalities functioning.
Crystal Wright is a public health nurse with the Baltimore County Health Department. She has been with them for three years. She is also a member of the Baltimore County Federation of Public Health Nurses, Local 5102. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything about how she does her job. One way her job is affected that may not be obvious is the degree of care she can give patients. She reports that sometimes patients see her as a confidant with a shoulder they can cry on, and she has to remember that “today it’s my patient that’s positive for the virus, but tomorrow it could be me.” With each interaction, she and other nurses are at an increased risk. The nature of her work has changed because interactions have to be brief, but focused.
COVID-19 has caused a need for specific strategic approaches to safety precautions that are unprecedented. Beyond traditional precautions for infection control (mask, gloves, and constant hand hygiene) she also practices enhanced transmission-based precautions including head covering, appropriate N95 masks, face-shield, gowns, and double gloves. She also has adjusted how she engages at home. She changes on an enclosed porch and puts clothing in a plastic bin and seals it. She then disinfects every surface she touches including her shoes. Following all this, she showers, cleans the work clothes, disinfects the bin, and puts it back on the enclosed porch with clean clothes so she can repeat the next day.
All of this sounds tedious, but Crystal says, “when I decided to become a public health nurse... I wanted to ensure my practice contributed to achieving the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” She says that “nurses are prepared and honored to be a part of the solution. This is what we signed up for in becoming public health employees... and I personally hope this inspires more nurses to join the field.” Crystal Wright is one of our Unsung Heroes on the Frontline.