Health care workers are responding to the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic with professionalism and courage. Doctors and nurses have been, by far, the faces seen on nightly news videos or the voices quoted in news articles. Yet many other workers are involved in patient care and make it possible for hospital ecosystems to function properly — janitors, transport specialists, baristas, administrative clerks, dietitians, and more. They, however, tend to be invisible to the world outside of hospitals doors.
As the Covid-19 pandemic began to unfold, I noticed that people in the hospital where I work were generally worried. I noticed it in physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals doing direct patient care, but I also saw it in the barista who made my coffee most days. In the cleaning staff who took such great care sanitizing patient rooms, call rooms, and common areas. In the transport specialists who moved patients from one part of the hospital to the other.
As I made my rounds in the hospital, I asked people how they were feeling about the pandemic and how they were coping with it. And I realized — far too late — that these individuals are as much frontline workers as clinicians and are exposing themselves to the same risk for infection by SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, even if sometimes a bit more indirectly. But unlike nurses and doctors, they tend to be poorly paid, lack job security, don’t receive hazard pay, and, as you can see in the photos below, are often from minority groups.
To recognize these unsung heroes, I began asking them if I could take photographs of them and post them, along with quotes, on my Twitter feed.
I did this because I wanted everyone to be able to see the workers who are essential to the fight against Covid-19 but who tend to go unrecognized for their efforts. They remind me — and I hope they remind you, too — that we are all in this together and that we are stronger when we value everyone’s contributions to this devastating pandemic.
Gray Moonen, M.D., is a first-year resident in family medicine at the University of Toronto.
“I was hearing from nurses that their ears were hurting from wearing masks all day, so I’m making these caps! They’ve got little buttons on the sides for the straps, which make it a lot more comfortable”
Eva, Nurse Practitioner
“If it happens to me it happens, that’s just how I feel about it. I try not to focus on the negative. Other than that, I’m bored as hell! It’s so dead here …”
Mel, barista at hospital cafe
“We’re often forgotten members of the acute care team, but these Covid-19 patients in the hospital and ICU — they can’t eat. We manage all of their nutrition and work very hard to keep them alive.”
“Young man, I’m a faith-believing person … keep the faith and this virus will soon be over.”
Carmen, Information Desk and Medical Records
“I’m not used to wearing a mask all day, so I can’t stop touching my face. I know I’m not supposed to, but my glasses don’t fit properly because of the mask … it’s a mess.”
Chantal, Administrative Assistant
“Nerves are starting to get to people, I won’t lie, but we are being more cautious. It’s a bit of a Catch-22 for the guys … we are still employed and make money, but are a bit worried to be here.”
Manrique, construction at the hospital
“We all have young children and figuring out what to do with kids … I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes. We are all in the same boat more or less.”
Katarina, Team Leader on a Nursing Floor, She worked through SARS.
“In a code situation … how fast can you respond to a heart not beating? If it takes me six minutes to get to a locked-up N95 … that person isn’t going to do very well.”
Becky, Emergency Department nurse
“I’m as concerned as everyone is, but I’m taking the necessary precautions. So I’m good … we’re good. I mean, it’s a few hours of my day, so I figure why not. Anything I can do to help.”
Nicole, volunteer screener. She asks people if they are symptomatic upon entering the hospital and ensures they use hand sanitizer.