As vaccination rates increase and health restrictions ease, Central Oregonians are looking forward to getting back to a semblance of normal life.
But front-line medical workers—nurses and medics—are resigned to wearing protective equipment and taking special precautions for as long as there’s a risk of infection.
Paramedics, nurses and health care workers have been taking extra precautions since the COVID pandemic began 15 months ago.
“We are getting tired of all the extra PPE we have to put on. It does increase our response times and the time it takes for us to get ready for every call,” said Ben Brugeman, a Firefighter/Paramedic with the Bend Fire Department.
Bend firefighter-paramedics wear N95 masks on every call for every patient.
If dispatch informs them a patient might have COVID symptoms or some respiratory illness, they put on additional PPE including gowns, goggles and face shields to protect their eyes.
“Nobody wants to take get sick from it or take it home to their family members,” Brugeman said.
A recent American Nursing Association survey of 22,000 nurses found that more than half of them feel exhausted, 43% are overwhelmed and more than a quarter feel a desire to quit the profession.
“Yes, I am getting tired of it. I’ve also kind of relinquished that this is probably the new norm,” said Neysa Larson, a registered nurse who works at St. Charles.
Even with 80% of the Bend firefighters fully immunized, the department, hospitals and health care clinics continue to treat COVID as a serious illness.
“It will probably at least another year would be my guess before we are able to reduce our PPE requirements,” Brugeman added.