How did COVID-19 pandemic change our life?

The year 2020 was mainly marked by one event – the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 became one of the most important words in our everyday language and somehow it affected all of us. At the beginning of the pandemic, many people were not aware of how much their life will change due to COVID-19 pandemic. In this little series, we asked six different people about their personal experiences during the first lockdown. They kindly agreed to share with us their personal experience, feelings, hopes, and wishes for the future.

We decided to keep our interview partners anonymous so that they were able to talk freely about their experiences. We did not exclusively talk to people employed by the UKB but also to people outside the UKB.

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the interviewed persons.

Nurse

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Working as a nurse can be challenging from time to time. On one hand, you need to take care of the hospitalized people but on the other hand, you also need to be there for the beloved ones. Here, we asked a nurse how the work during the first weeks of the pandemic changed for her.

How did your working life change due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

First of all, I have to say, that we are almost back to a normal situation. During the first lockdown, many things changed. A part of our hospital became a corona station. Our Intensive Care Station just moved recently and the old one was still available. This became the station for the patients who needed artificial respiration. Then we also had a station for patients that were tested positive but did not need oxygen and we had one for suspected cases.

However, one major problem in my hospital was that we have one of the biggest geriatrics and many patients are transferred to our hospital. At the beginning of the crisis, new patients were not tested for COVID and so the virus could spread easily and almost the whole building was infected. At one of the peaks, we had more than 120 positive patients. Additionally, to these patients, we also had the “normal” COVID patients we had to take care of. I worked in this station for two days as well and it felt like almost every patient died there because of COVID. In total, more than 45-50 people of the staff were infected at the same time. However, we always were allowed to get tested for COVID. I heard of many colleagues from other hospitals who were not allowed to get tested.

I had the feeling that the requirement to wear a mask came very late (beginning of April 2020). Additionally, there was a shortage on the protective equipment. Of course, the COVID stations had sufficient protective equipment but we still had and have patients with the norovirus or with clostridium. Due to the missing protective equipment, only one person could enter the rooms of these patients. In total, we had to lower our hygiene standard because we were always afraid that we might run out of necessary things and that the night shift would be there without anything. A lot of the material was stolen as well and we had to lock things like disinfectants.

One nice thing was that no visitors were allowed. Of course, this was problematic for patients that were in the hospital for longer times and for patients that suffered for example from dementia. But the normal patients could calm down a lot easier and it was easier for us to do our work.

Do you have the feeling that your job receives enough appreciation and do you have the feeling that the reputation of your job changed due to COVID-19 pandemic?

I think this is a difficult question. I really don’t like that so many people complain. Yes, there is a major problem in nursing and yes, sometimes our work is really hard. Nevertheless, we earn good money but the circumstances are not okay. For example, we work every second weekend and this is a heavy burden. Eventually, we need to work less hours and we need to be allowed to retire at a younger age. Some of my colleagues are more fragile than the patients they have to take care of and this is not okay. Nursing is a physically demanding job.

All in all, I sometimes have the feeling that our job became more popular and that the appreciation increased. However, the lack of qualified staff was already omnipresent before COVID-19 pandemic. One problem is that we have a lot of colleagues from other countries like that are employed via subcontractors. Those people studied nursing and they lack practical experience like nurses from Germany have. I just hope that this job does not get a bad reputation and that there are still people who really want to do this job. It is a great and rewarding job regarding the patients but not for your private life.

How are you treated by the patients and did this change?

All in all, most patients treat me very well – but relatives are a different story. This is why we were very happy that no visitors were allowed during the lockdown. Currently, patients are sympathetic to us (of course not all of them but approximately 70%) and the relatives are not calling as often as they used to do.

What kind of changes do you hope for?

I hope that more people decide to work in the field of nursing but due to the right reasons. The shortage of nursing personnel leads to frustration and frustration leads to disastrous caring. You are noticing how frustrated people are that worked as a nurse for a longer time. You can see it how they treat the patients and how they treat colleagues.

Cashier

During the lockdown almost everything was closes: schools, restaurants, fashion shops and many more! But during all that time, the groceries stores never closed and it was never a discussion to shut them down. However, how did this time go by for a cashier? How was it to suddenly be system-relevant? Here, we interviewed a cashier who works at Kaufland to share their experience with us.

How did your everyday work change during the COVID-19 pandemic and what kind of changes are still noticeable today?

The changes came step by step. First, the behaviour of the customers changed. There was an increasing amount of purchases over 300€ because people started to buy ahead. It all started around valentine’s day. Due to this, we had to set a limit for desired products like toilet paper, noodles, rice, yeast, and tissues. Meanwhile, those restrictions are not necessary anymore because the behaviour of the costumers has normalized.

For us (cashiers), disinfectant was provided by our employer before the pandemic started. Thus, we always had some on hand. Next, it became mandatory to wear masks (which we have to wear as cashiers as well), and in the middle of March (2020), Plexiglas was build up. In front of the checkout, we have empty boxes so that costumers keep the required distance. In front of the store, security was standing to regulate the number of people that entered. Nowadays, security is gone because people keep a distance. On the floor in front of the checkout, we have lines on the floor to separate every “purchase unit”.

At the beginning of the pandemic (February/ March 2020), a depressed mood was in the air, and I noticed that the customers felt tense. This was also since some people did not keep proper distance or because they were wearing their masks wrong.

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Can you understand why people started to buy ahead?

I never could and I still cannot understand why people started to buy ahead. It was never an issue for politicians to close down grocery stores. Of course, we all knew that restrictions will be set up (e.g. maintaining distances, the maximal number of costumers, etc.), but the stores were always open as they were before the pandemic. Further, there was never a bottleneck with the production of certain products like toilet paper. But since customers started to buy too many toilet paper and since it became difficult with the shipment of some products, we sometimes had to hold back some products at the checkout.

How were you and your colleges treated by costumers? Does it make any difference for you that your job is now of systemic importance?

In the beginning, everything was as usual – someone was sitting at the checkout and did one’s job. As times passed, occasionally customers commended us. Nowadays, I hear things like: “Stay healthy”. Eventually, I have to admit that I am just doing my job and the contact between the customers and me is so little that I am not afraid to get infected at work. Sometimes people bought us chocolate and gave it to us.

Independent of the pandemic, my heroes are the nursing personnel. If you are care-dependent, they are the ones taking care of you and they are the ones who are always there. Their job is very exhausting and I think their job needs more appreciation.


Interviews were conducted by Anja vom Hemdt


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