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Coronavirus Care: Boston Nurse Describes 'Extremely Stressful' Work

BOSTON (CBS) -- "It's just changed everything, our whole way of life," a Boston nurse about the coronavirus pandemic. Trish Powers works at Brigham and Women's Hospital and is a chairperson for the Mass. Nurses Association.

Powers said caring for COVID-19 patients, potential COVID-19 patients, and taking strict precautions have been hard for nurses to keep up with.

"It's extremely, extremely stressful... because you have to garb up, go in the room, do the care the patient needs. We have another nurse outside the room that looks at you through a window and basically will tell you whether you have broken technique," Powers said.

While it is normal for people to come to the hospital with heart and lung issues, nurses now have to care for them as if they could have coronavirus because they are displaying some of the known symptoms.

"Until their test comes back negative, we have to treat them as positive," Powers explained.

Brigham and Women's has designated areas for coronavirus patients, coronavirus ICU patients, and potential coronavirus patients.

Powers said surgeries for coronavirus patients are especially nerve-wracking because the patients are likely already immunosuppressed.

Meanwhile, they are trying to conserve medical masks.

"The N95 mask is what protects you the most from the COVID-19 but that they also are very uncomfortable because you sweat so much in them just the way they are designed, which is OK because at least we know we are protected."

The work can take a toll on nurses.

"We are all basically in hell together and when you do get a break you want to go hang out, get a cup of coffee with your friends, you can't anymore. We have to isolate ourselves," Powers said.

Powers hasn't been able to see friends or family, and she only interacts with coworkers when she has a mask on.

"I have friends right now who are nurses and doctors who are paying for hotel rooms in the area because they're symptomatic or positive and they don't want to go home to their children, their boyfriends, their girlfriends, their parents, so they're paying for hotel rooms to isolate [themselves] for the two week period," she said.

"Obviously this is a very stressful time for all of us... you can get emotional at times and you can't give someone a hug. "

Powers, who plans to work until she becomes sick herself, had a strong message to people not staying home: "You are putting all of us at risk... Do what everyone is telling you to do. Don't leave your homes, don't go gather in big groups, you literally could be killing somebody by doing this. "

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