Impact of COVID on Palliative Patients and Family

Submitted by McGill University
September 5, 2020

I started my first job as a CEPI, which in Quebec is a graduate from CEGEP who has yet to complete their licensing exam, in the summer of the pandemic. I worked in a small english hospital outside of the city of Gatineau. I was very new to the medical world and still would be considered novice. The hospital was remote with a general care, long term and emergency units. There was no speciality units and the “COVID rooms” were makeshift and at the end of the hospital.

Though we had no cases of COVID on the floor, it was a very different environment to start off as a new grad. Due to the pandemic, there were no visitors allowed and that often meant that staff were the only sources of human interaction that patients received. While this may have been fine for patients who were expected to go home after a short stay, the patient’s who were in palliative care were left without their family in the last days of their lives. As the influx of patients did decline, staff were fortunately able to spend more time with these patients, but of course it was ultimately heartbreaking. I felt guilty leaving the room of some of my patients knowing they would be alone in their rooms. There was no full time emotional support that was usually there.

During one shift, one of my patient’s, an elderly lady grasp my hand so I couldn’t leave the room because she knew there was no one else’s hand to be held. She didn’t want to die alone. What do you do in a situation like that? Leave? What about your other patients? It was very difficult to have to witness patients going through this and I felt helpless in the situation. It really put things into perspective and I don’t think I’ll ever forget my first summer as a new grad. It’s another reason to follow the public safety protocols. No one should have to experience loneliness in their last days of life.