COOS BAY — When nations across the globe were warned that the novel coronavirus was coming, one registered nurse at North Bend Medical Center felt the same fear as everyone else.
“I was scared — not going to lie,” said Erin Deere. “Healthcare workers are at a higher risk and have families to go home to. But when you go into this field, people understand the risk we take. … And at first it was scary, but I’m very proud to be a nurse.”
As the COVID-19 nightmare gripped the country, healthcare workers rose to the frontlines. Deere explained that people go into the medical field to help people and as time went on, she became more confident.
“You learn about (this situation), prepare for it, so we knew what we had to do,” she said, looking back on when she and her colleagues at North Bend Medical Center were still bracing for the disease. “We had to take the knowledge and apply it to keep staff safe and healthy while protecting public health as well.”
Deere, a nursing graduate from Southwestern Oregon Community College, she started out in the medical field at an animal hospital before going on to work in pediatrics. Now, she works in urgent care where she sees a spectrum of different age groups. The switch from pediatrics to urgent care was, in part, due to the pandemic.
To cope with the stress of the job, especially during a health crisis, Deere pointed to one of the basic lessons in nursing school: taking care of yourself first.
“They teach in nursing school to take care of yourself so you have the energy to take care of other people," she said. “It’s important to balance your work and personal life, make sure you get lots of water and sleep.”
As she maintained her routine as best she could, North Bend Medical Center was working to find a way to keep its staff and the public safe before an outbreak came to the area. Deere said the center was making sure staff had the right personal protection equipment and that people were educated on how to keep healthy.
Initially, before Deere moved to urgent care, she saw families nervous to come in or go out in public. But “the best thing for that is to educate people … which empowers them and makes them feel better about what’s going on. Education is important when working with the public and as we’ve gone forward, they seem more confident in how to proceed safely.”
From her perspective, she sees the pandemic-related restrictions as having made a difference.
“People are trying to be responsible and do the right thing,” she said. “For the most part, I believe people are trying to do the right thing, but you have to move forward.”
She cautioned the public as restrictions are starting to be lifted that they remain diligent.
“I worry we might get too relaxed as time goes on,” she said, reminding people to continue to be careful and wash their hands while being careful around infants and the elderly.
Meanwhile, for her as an essential worker, “At the end of the day, you feel good and know that what you do makes a difference in people’s lives.”