I was hired in 2003 as a paramedic, during SARS.
Before SARS (while I was a student), these were normal practices:
- Cleaning stretchers with water from a hose or paper towels when we KNEW they were dirty. (There were no Virox Wipes).
- Washed and reused: airways (some were metal, some were plastic), BVMs, suction canisters (and we just poured “it” down the sink), head rolls (most were just rolled up towels, but were used many times before washing), and there are so many more examples.
- Gloves? Well, if you were delivering a baby those kits had gloves, so you (hopefully) wore them then. We did have other gloves on the trucks, but you barely saw anyone wear them unless they knew they had to. (And when SARS began, we double-gloved…in the summer…with sweaty hands. Not an easy task. We double-gowned too).
- I don’t even think we had hand sanitizer back then…
- There were no mask fit tests for N-95 masks. We wore any mask really. And because they didn’t fit properly, glasses would fog up immediately…so medics would have no choice but to take the mask off. (Now first responders and healthcare providers are tested (these tests even improved rapidly as time went on) and have proper fitting masks).
Those are a few examples of changes since just 2003. What will the changes be after this virus? I’m interested to see.
It’s sad that in these difficult times we learn the most from experience; that experience in these pandemic situations often equals loss of life.
I want to say loud and clear, THANK YOU to ALL of you in the hot zones. In this great time of change, I admire you more than I ever have. And the best thing we (those who are not in these zones) can do is to listen to, and act as directed by our healthcare leaders. Our frontline workers are in the direct line of fire. Give respect to these individuals by lessening their load. More patients equals more chances of transmission to them.
Think of others first and don’t naively believe that it can’t happen to you. It definitely can. The less experience required during this pandemic, the better.