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Meet one of the people we cheer for, Squamish

A local nurse talks about what it is like to don scrubs during COVID-19
squamish hospital

Lauren Parker is at work at Squamish General Hospital when The Chief reaches her for an interview.

She doesn't have a lot of time to chat, but RNs rarely do.

Parker moved to Squamish in September and works as a registered nurse at both Squamish's hospital, in the emergency room and medical unit, and at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver. 

The Chief caught up with Parker for a chat about what it is like to be a Squamish resident and nurse on the front lines during this pandemic.

What follows is an edited version of that conversation.

Q: I know you can't get into specifics, but generally speaking, what is it like to be a nurse right now, especially working where you live, here in Squamish?

A: I am not sure I am ready to put it all into words yet, because we are still in the midst of it.

It is a significant time in history to be a nurse, so I guess first off I am really proud to do what I am doing.

It is a defining moment in my career, I think.

I feel like what we are doing matters and we are making a positive impact on people and protecting the public. Coming to work every day, I have to put a brave face on and come, but it is also uniting, working with a team. Everyone has a part to play and is working their butt off to prepare for this pandemic.

On the other side of things, it is stressful and emotional. It comes in waves. Sometimes you feel happy and excited to be here and other times the emotions get the best of you.

I am just happy to be a part of it.

Q:  It must be satisfying in that you get to use all the skills and tools you went to school for?

A: I don't know if you can totally prepare in school for something like this until it is time to go. Luckily, we have had time with our teams to prepare for scenarios and do simulations. People have been working hard to ensure we are safe and prepared.

Q: Outside of the hospital, do you remember when you first heard about the coronavirus?

A: I think it was around the time when Kobe Bryant died [Jan. 26]. People were starting to hear about the virus, and then he died and that took over the news for a bit and then more about it started to trickle through. It started to seem that coronavirus wasn't something just happening overseas, but that it was starting to make its way [here]. Of course, everyone wonders if it is going to affect them and then it starts to become your reality. Then it just becomes your norm. It is so strange how well we adapt.

Q: As someone who lives in Squamish, what do you wish locals knew about this virus that maybe they don't?

A: People need to not get complacent. They need to be vigilant. It is so important that everyone plays a role in this. Don't break the chain.

Everyone is working really hard, losing sleep and stressing out, to manage this and so people need to be responsible. And they need to see the bigger picture. It isn't just about, "Oh, I missed out on my ride this weekend, poor me." That is not what it is about. There is a bigger picture. Let's make this temporary; let's make this something that comes and goes, not sticks around. Most of the time it is not just about you. It is about vulnerable people and people who tend to get sick.

At the same time, I think it is good to be hopeful. And we need to maintain our sanity by getting fresh air and get exercise. That helps you carry on. But don't let your guard down.

Q: As you said, even for health care workers it is a stressful and emotional time, so how do you manage that?

A: There is a woman I work with, Holly O'Neil, and she organized the Squamish General Hospital 30X30 Challenge. There are almost 100 hospital staff participating. The whole month of April, we have pledged $30 each to do 30 minutes of exercise each day.

That has been so good for everyone's mental health. You take 30 minutes a day to dedicate to yourself and it is 30 minutes when you don't have to think about COVID.

The other thing she did is she got businesses in town to contribute prizes. So every day she gives away a prize to a staff member who is participating. It is really cool.

Q: Do you all see and hear the cheers at 7 p.m. every night?

A: Oh, yeah. We all make a point of going out and listening and waving. It is cool. It is like a cup of coffee — a caffeine jolt — at 7 p.m. People really care. Even on my days off, I hear it and we go out and clap.