Global WACh

August 11, 2020

Q&A with Emily Robson: Perspectives as a nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic

University of Washington students are rising to the occasion to care for the most vulnerable populations during Seattle’s COVID-19 outbreak.  One of these students is Emily Robson, an incoming 2nd year Doctorate of Nurse Practice student in the Population Health Nursing Track and Global WACh Graduate Certificate student.  Emily is spending her summer as a full-time Registered Nurse at King County Public Health’s COVID-19 Isolation/Quarantine Centers.  These sites provide supervised care to symptomatic or COVID-positive individuals who cannot quarantine or recover in their own home, or do not have a home.  These spaces support the community by providing a place of care and slow the spread of the virus to others.

We asked Emily to share her experience as an Isolation/Quarantine nurse and the lessons learned as she courageously and compassionately works on the frontlines of a public health emergency.

Tell us about a typical shift at an Isolation/Quarantine Center (IQ).

I work in tandem with an interdisciplinary team of behavioral health staff and medical professionals. A typical day consists of building rapport with our patients, monitoring their well-being as they battle the virus while staying in self-quarantine, and helping plan where they may safely re-enter (i.e., home) the community once they have completed their stay. The behavioral health staff members and I work together to address our patients’ needs. Each day may look a little different depending on the care the patient requires at that time. Nevertheless, the IQ staff works hard to ensure patients’ physical, mental, and emotional needs are met.


What strategies have you put in place to deal with the psychosocial needs of both patients and fellow nurses?

I address the psychosocial needs of my patients and fellow nurses through validation, support, and the promotion of self-care. Asking someone to self-isolate for about 10-14 days is a tough request. As is taking care of an individual experiencing quarantine and battling an illness.  Ensuring our patients feel heard, acknowledged, and cared for while with us is crucial for our team.  Working closely with behavioral health staff has improved my skillset of addressing psychosocial needs. Taking the time to ask someone how they are doing emotionally, what they would like help with today, and if they have any goals they would like to accomplish while at the site, are important questions for our patients. Additionally, I provide one of the few social interactions a patient has each day, so creating a safe space and time for the patient to talk is a simple strategy that can go a long way.

To me, nursing is a team sport. In addressing my fellow nurses’ needs, I try to be available to help when they need assistance, actively listen when they need to process an event, and encourage them to practice self-care. Taking a moment to take care of yourself will allow you to take better care of others.


What are the biggest challenges you are facing during this pandemic? (Personally, professionally, and as a student)

I find the main challenges I am experiencing during this time are caused by a sense of loss of control, uncertainty, and constant change. It is hard not knowing when I can see members of my family, friends, and fellow classmates again.  Before the pandemic, I would run errands, study at a coffee shop, and meet with friends, tasks I would not think twice about. Now I ask myself, can I do that? Is it safe? What do I need to do to keep others and myself safe? I recognize these new questions to be important moving forward to promote our community’s health and well-being.


Are there any positives you are seeing from these challenges?

Personally, I can identify a lot of self-growth occurring during this time. I am improving my flexibility, adaptability, and grit that will be useful for me moving forward.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect with friends who I have lost touch with due time and distance. Additionally, the friendships I have with my fellow classmates have strengthened as we navigate these uncertain times together.


Is there anything else you would like to share?

Please remember to wash your hands, wear a mask if you are able, and practice social distancing.


Want to learn more about King County’s Isolation/Quarantine Centers? Click here to see a video on the Public Health Insider.