OKEECHOBEE — Despite the challenges of the last year, Registered Nurse Marcy Spelts loves being a nurse. Spelts has been in the nursing field for 30 years and said the last year was definitely the most challenging she has faced in her career, but nursing is all about changing, growing and adapting, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She said in healthcare, you have to expect change. “We are always continuing our education.”
Spelts has worked as an emergency room nurse for 17 years. She started out as a CNA at a nursing home and found she loved taking care of people. She went on to nursing school and became an LPN and then an RN, working in just about every area of her hospital before settling in the emergency room.
Spelts said the last year has been difficult. “I think the hardest thing is communicating while wearing a mask,” she said. Some of my elderly patients have trouble hearing anyway, so the masks make it even harder. We wear a mask and a shield at a minimum. The patient wears a mask too. It’s really hard to communicate that way. The voices get muffled. I have a soft voice anyway, so that makes it even harder.”
Spelts said she also misses touching people, a hug or a pat on the arm to comfort them. “We still touch, but only while wearing gloves. It’s very different. Nurses tend to be touchy feely people, and we can’t really do that anymore. I feel like I am incognito. It’s hard not being able to hug people. You have to think of new ways to show you care.”
When COVID-19 first started, she felt a lot of fear. How would she keep her patients safe, herself safe, her family safe? “There were so many rumors and no one really knew what to expect,” she said. “It was scary watching the news and seeing how New York was, all the other big places. Was I going to have to deal with that? Would we run out of equipment? Would we run out of beds? It was scary.”
It was a relief that it never came to that where Spelts works. They never ran out of anything and though they had cloth masks donated by the community, they never had to use them in the hospital. Instead, they used them when they were off duty. Because patients could not have visitors when COVID-19 was at its worst, the nurses tried to be even more available to them. One of the solutions they used was a large IPad for the patients to Facetime their families. "We didn't want them to feel they were alone," she said.
Spelts said things have settled down since covid first arrived. “I feel like it’s going back to normal, but really I think it’s more of a new normal. We have adapted and changed. I don’t know if it will ever go back to the way it was before covid, but I feel we still provide the same care we always did.”
Even with the challenges covid has added, Spelts loves her job and wouldn’t trade it for anything. “I don’t know what else I would do. I love being nurse.”