Illustration: Xinmei Liu

The Covid Audit

Inside One Psychiatric Nurse’s Workweek at the Hospital

Public health specialists explain how well she mitigated risk for herself, her patients, and her family

Elemental
Published in
15 min readJan 22, 2021

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Wouldn’t it be nice, as you go about your confusing, nerve-wracking, coronavirus-avoiding days, to have an epidemiologist on call to answer your many questions? Consider the Covid Audit the next best thing. This project, a collaboration between Elemental and the Epidemiology Covid-19 Response Corps at the Boston University School of Public Health, asks real people to keep a diary about what they’re doing to avoid Covid-19 and gives friendly feedback from the Response Corps team on actions you can take to support public health — and your own. This week’s reviewers are response corps members Sarah Lincoln and Ivanna Rocha, graduate students in the Master of Public Health program at BU, under the supervision of Eleanor Murray, ScD, assistant professor of epidemiology at BU.

Our diarist is a nurse manager on an acute psychiatric unit at a hospital in Missouri. She lives with her husband — a chef who recently returned to work at an upscale restaurant — and her 13-year-old daughter. “This entire time was and continues to be incredibly stressful for my husband and me,” she says. With her husband furloughed for nearly eight months, “I was anxiously working a ton of overtime in a place where everyone was basically holding their breath waiting for the worst of a pandemic to come crashing down at any moment. Oh, and did I mention we were newlyweds when all of this happened too? It’s really been a hell of a year.” She kept a diary for a few days late in 2020, describing the precautions she took at home and at work.

Day one, 3 p.m.

I wake up around 3 p.m. To be clear, I work 12-hour overnight shifts as a nurse manager on an inpatient psychiatric unit within a hospital, so my day starts later than most. Despite waking in the afternoon, I still complete typical morning tasks like making coffee and putting on some scrubs fresh out of the dryer.

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Sara Austin
Elemental

Sara Austin is a writer and editor in New York. She has held senior editorial positions at Real Simple, Cosmopolitan, Self, and Marie Claire.