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Natalie—Registered nurse
Private aged care
Regional Victoria

I remember my grandma talking about living through the Great Depression and then the Second World War. Her stories seemed so distant. I never thought I’d live through similar conditions.

During Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdowns, I worked in an aged care facility. Driving to and from work felt eerie—there were no cars, no people, everyone was locked inside. It certainly felt like a war!

At work, hallways that once were meeting points for residents were now barren and isolated, except for the PPE stations. Bins outside were overflowing, unable to cope with the increased waste.

Staff were running on adrenaline, and the look of fear in my colleagues’ eyes is something I will never forget.

COVID observations, maintaining isolation, delivering single-use food containers, trying to support and reassure residents, advising families of current situations and constantly looking for staff to fill the roster added to our workload.

Wearing face masks, face shields, a gown and gloves while trying to communicate with older people is hard. So was having to perform PCR tests, especially on people with dementia. It felt cruel, but it had to be done.

The onslaught of constant information about COVID worldwide and from health authorities at a national and state level, and within our organisation, was exhausting. Phrases like ‘state of disaster’, ‘restrictions’, ‘stage 2’, and ‘daily death tolls’ all became the norm.

Mandatory staff vaccination saw a quarter of our workforce leave and divided the nursing team. Anti-vaccine stories spread like wildfire. Camaraderie was lost and we mourned the loss of our reliable team.

Feelings of fear, anxiety and depression stirred and the thought of bringing the virus home and infecting my family was foremost in my brain. I spent times sleeping in a caravan to avoid this. I was scared and felt alone, and it seemed that only my colleagues could understand.

It felt like a war of the virus kind.