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 series, “pandemic pain – personal insights”, 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: This are the personal opinions of the interviewed persons.
A paramedic is the first person you call when you have urgent health issues. Of course, this did not change during the COVID-19 pandemic. But how did this impact the paramedics? How was it for them to never know if their new patient might be positive? In this interview, a paramedic gave us an insight into his work.
How did your day-to-day work change during COVID-19 pandemic?
The hygiene rules during our „free-time“ on the station got intensified. We also have to wear a mask as soon as we are in the car. The first thing to do, when we arrive on a scene, is to ask the patients, if they suffer from a newly appearing dry cough or fever in the last days. Independent of the original cause of the alerting. When there is an indication for an infection, we immediately start to protect ourselves. In this situation we have infection protection gear (FFP3 mask, gown, eye protection) with us.
We also treat patients with more physical distance. The hospitals have nowadays special emergency rooms just for patients with a suspected SARS-CoV-2 infection, which are spatially divided from the regular emergency room. In some cases, the hospitals declare the patient belatedly to a suspected COVID-19 case. In these cases, we get informed about the patient and that we are temporarily banned from work, until the test result of the patient is available. If the patient is positive a 14-days quarantine would follow. So sometimes you have to cover a shift for one of your colleagues. Luckily neither my colleagues nor myself have transported a positive patient without wearing protection yet and were only quarantined for a few days.
Do you have the feeling that your work is appreciated? Do you have the feeling that people changed their opinion of your work due to COVID-19 pandemic?
Indeed. People somehow got friendlier. The shop which provides us with buns for breakfast on weekends, picks up our tab for the second month now, which is quite nice. Also some restaurants have special offers or add something to your order for free. What we also noticed was, that calls from patients with back pain since 3 weeks, gastrointestinal complaints and all this stuff which should usually be covered by a general practitioner, got less. Suddenly these calls stopped and the patients really needed our help and not just a mobile intensive care unit as an Uber.
You helped during the evacuation of the UKB when a bomb was defused (spring 2020) and you also had to transfer Corona positive patients. Were you afraid for your own heath at that moment?
Not really. I don’t really see myself as a high risk patient. Sure, there is always some concern, especially when we heard, that the first patients on the ventilator were young medical personnel. I am more concerned about my partner and my patients with regard to: “What if I am an asymptomatic carrier, because our general customer is a high risk patient?” The risk to infect patients is now reduced, because we start to wear masks on every call. But in general: when we transfer positive patients I have confidence in our protection gear.
Did something nice or funny happened in the past few weeks?
Nightshifts, especially on the weekend, got less intense. But these luxury days are over. I heard that the bars will open on Friday night… (May 2020).
Being a parent of two young children (primary school and kindergarten) is always challenging. But how did it change during COVID-19 pandemic? This parent works in science and told us about the everyday difficulties that arose.
What came first – home office or closing of schools and kindergarten? Did you feel prepared?
In my case, the home office came at the same time as the closing of schools and kindergarten (spring 2020). In the beginning, the situation was very confusing. Just like us parents, the administration of the school and kindergarten got the information from TV interviews and statements from different politicians. No one knew for sure if the children could go to school the next week or not. I did not feel prepared, as we did not know for sure what to prepare for. I think it was Sunday when we made the decision, that I would stay home initially and see if my partner could work from home as well. In the end, we divided the week. I worked from home for three days, and my partner the other two.
Do you have the feeling that you were and are sufficiently supported by your employer regarding childcare?
In my job, I mainly work with a computer. Therefore, I was able to efficiently work from home and take care of my children. Unfortunately, in the current situation, many alternative options for child care are not available. Giving the children to our parents isn’t an option as well. We are allowed to take days off very flexibly when needed, which helps a lot. I think there is not much more an employer can do in this situation.
In general, irrespective of the pandemic, I think my employer misses a chance by not providing enough child care places on site. Child care is offered in a company owned KiTa, but demand way exceeds the capacity. Other very helpful individual services have been implemented to support employees when regular child care is not an option. However, these options are department-specific and, due to regulations, they are not available to everyone.
One thing this pandemic shows is, that offering child care and allowing employees to work from a home office, for example, may before have been considered as an additional expense, only necessary to be attractive as an employer. During this pandemic, these measures increase the resilience of the company’s workforce. I hope child care and home-office are now re-evaluated and rise in the company’s priority.
How did home-schooling go by for you?
For home-schooling, me and my daughter set up our workspace on the big kitchen table in the morning. She started doing her lessons with me giving advice when needed. More challenging was focussing on work with my son being bored. We segmented our workday, so everybody knew until when we need to be disciplined, and when to have a break. Now they go back to school and kindergarten in emergency care. The time of working with the children at home was very stressful and I am happy, that I can go back to the office.
What are your biggest concerns as a parent regarding the COVID-19 pandemic?
In the current situation, with seven new corona cases in the last seven days in Bonn, I am confident that my children rather catch some other infection than COVID-19 when going back to school and kindergarten. I am more concerned about the education of my daughter. As the teachers in school now focus on keeping the kids happy and distract them from the situation rather than focus on their lessons, we have to compensate for the lost time at home. We do what is possible, but the day has 24 hours and the child deserves time to play as well. She is in third grade and soon the teachers will have to propose, which school form will be best for my child and her classmates. I am worried, that this decision is very much influenced by how much time parents had to support their children, and less by the children’s abilities.
Interviews were performed by Anja vom Hemdt