We begin a familiar and elaborate choreographic sequence. We move one of the recently admitted patients from a stretcher to an I.C.U. bed. We strip him and while I do a full body assessment, my colleague hooks him up to the cardiac monitor and gets a set of vital signs. We place a urinary catheter and two intravenous lines.
We wash the patient and check his skin for wounds. We pad his heels and lower back with foam adhesives to prevent painful pressure areas forming while he is bed-bound. We place an oral gastric tube so he can receive nutrition while he is intubated and on a ventilator.
Nursing colleagues outside the room set up our IV pumps with long extension tubing, so that we can manage our drips without donning our P.P.E. It is amazing what kinds of hacks we’ve devised to stay safe.
Finally, it is time to doff our P.P.E. We carefully clean our face shields and place them in a paper bag for reuse. An hour has passed. We are both sweating, our faces striped with marks from our N95s. The same worry haunts me every day now: Was I careful enough when I removed my P.P.E.? It’s the only mask and shield I have for the rest of the day. Did I wash my hands well enough, for long enough?