It has been a full year since the Midcoast had its first cases of COVID-19. In recognition of this anniversary, we reached out to interview some of the health care workers who have made so many sacrifices to take care of us.
Tara Murray, RN, always knew she wanted to help other people. She started her career in the Coast Guard, serving four years in active duty doing search and rescue and four years in active reserves. Then she traded in her Coast Guard uniform for nurse scrubs.
In 2010, she began her work at Pen Bay Medical Center. Currently, she is the nursing manager of the Operating Room. She worked in the emergency department and obstetrics, but she explained, “I found my home in the OR.”
The pandemic put a strain on everyone, even those in the operating room with Murray. They’ve had to cut down on staffing and the number of surgeries being performed. The department has had to juggle making sure whether the patients as well as the staff are safe. Murray’s team is on call 24/7 and can be ready for surgery at a moment's notice.
Despite the stress of being always at the ready, Murray said: “I love what I do…. I just enjoy doing what I do. I love caring for people.”
She said the pandemic has brought healthcare workers together, working for a common goal. Murray said that since everyone is wearing masks, there is much more camaraderie in the hallways. As cases decreased in the operating room, their team helped the other areas. Many picked up duties typically covered by the environmental services department, helping make sure everything stayed clean.
One of the biggest challenges that Murray has faced is providing assurance to her team. During the early months of the crisis, Murray became a go-to person to get new information out to her team. She struggled every day worrying with a list of questions: Am I doing everything I can? Am I giving them all the information?
Mental fatigue from the pandemic has taken a toll on healthcare workers from across the state and all over the country.
“And you are always on,” said Murray. “You're on when you're home, you're on when you're here. And when you're not here, you're thinking about being here. I was always on.”
There was a substantial personal cost to Murray during this crisis as she tried to let go of her worry from work while she was at home. Exercise became an outlet and alone time was ever more important. If she didn’t have time to take a breath and decompress after a long day of work, then the stress would build up.
Everyone has learned something from this experience. For Murray, this was adaptability and perseverance. Like all of us, she’s also learned to appreciate the smaller things that we may have taken for granted up until March of 2020.
Murray expressed her thanks to the community. She said the biggest support came from wearing masks, social distancing and not partaking in gatherings.
“The goodies and the signs, that's icing on the cake and that was all really nice but the true support was in your actions,” she said.
We couldn’t have gotten through this pandemic without the amazing team at our local hospitals. The community is very grateful for all the hard work that has gone into keeping the pandemic at bay in the Midcoast. But it is not yet over. She says “I would just buckle up.”