When I moved in with my new roommate Kristine Noval in 2019, the first thing I noticed about her was that she worked a lot. She had to. She’s a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at Boone Hospital and a rehabilitation nurse at Rusk Rehabilitation Hospital in Columbia. When our second roommate moved in, she did the same. They both work twelve-hour shifts while the rest of us are sleeping, sometimes six days each week. Kristine is originally from the Philippines but has also been a nurse in Singapore, New Zealand, and now the United States, too. After working in many different hospitals during her career that spans thirteen years, she thought she had seen it all, but then COVID-19 started making its way through the world. Luckily, Columbia’s numbers have stayed fairly low during this time, but as Kristine says, you never really know what to expect from the upcoming days and weeks. 

What has changed at Boone Hospital since the pandemic began?

We have to take more precautions. We have to go to a specific entrance, and then before you enter the main building, you have to sanitize your hands, they screen you and ask questions like have we traveled, do we have symptoms of cough, chills, fever, and you must wear a mask before you enter the main building. 

What is it like being a nurse during a pandemic?

When your career is in health care, the people rely on you. You have to be healthy for them, you have to be equipped, you have to take care of yourself because who will be there for them? You are the front-liner and the community relies on you. 

When you go to work at Boone Hospital, you don’t know if you will be assigned a patient with COVID-19?

Yeah, it’s very frightening because you don’t know who you’re getting. They just assign them to you. 

Did you think you’d ever see a pandemic in your life?

Never. This is, for me, a lesson in the book for my nursing career, but never did I ever think I would encounter a bad pandemic. 

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope this will end and there is a cure because this is affecting everyone, not just in healthcare. And I hope that we are going to be ready for a pandemic [if it gets worse], because when it hits, it hits hard. 

What is the overall feel in the hospital? 

When I get to Boone I always think, “why is this so calm?” That’s why sometimes I say it’s like a ghost town because they’re closing some wards and have stopped elective surgeries. When we look at the news about New York or other big cities, they are having a lot of cases, and we are just going to the hospital everyday wondering if we will be like that tomorrow or the next week, so we are just preparing. So now in the hospital, the pressure is not because you have a lot of patients, it’s anticipating if this is the calm before the storm.