NH Nursing Home employee tells of experience during COVID-19

David Micali '21, Senior Correspondent

The nursing home where Kristine Davis works has already witnessed nine coronavirus related deaths since March. These deaths mirror a national trend. 

According to a study published by The New York Times, one in three people who have died of the coronavirus in the United States have either lived or worked in a nursing home. The virus, which affects older people significantly more than others, has ripped through these communities with a surprising fury. At one nursing home in Andover, New Jersey, an anonymous call led police to discover seventeen bodies crammed into the facility’s overcrowded morgue. In New Hampshire, nursing home related deaths account for 78 percent of all coronavirus fatalities, according to state health officials on May 6. It is a reality that Davis knows all too well.

“What they say on TV is true,” Davis told The Saint Anselm Crier, “it’s been awful to watch [the residents] deteriorate.”

Kristine Davis works as a charge nurse at a facility in Nashua, New Hampshire. There, she is responsible for up to twenty residents with whom she coordinates doctor visits, administers treatment, and ensures that they receive their medications. In March, the virus began manifesting itself in Southern New Hampshire and the state began to shut down. It was around this time that the nursing home’s first coronavirus case appeared in an elderly man who left the facility. 

“He got sick on the weekend,” Davis said, and “he died on Thursday.” 

When the coronavirus first hit the facility, which was asked not to be identified by Davis, there was little personal protective equipment (PPE) or information given to the staff. According to Davis, only the nurse on duty and the man’s caregiver were told to wear masks. On the Monday after the resident became sick, Davis was tasked with bathing him, though she was not informed that he was infected with the coronavirus. As a result, she did not wear PPE because, as far as she knew, there was no need to. It was not until after the man died that the rest of the facility’s staff was told of his diagnosis. By that point, “we had been exposed.” 

Davis quarantined herself with her boyfriend, who she had potentially infected, and waited. Fortunately, after nine days, the virus never manifested itself and a test came back negative. Despite the risk to her health, Davis returned to the nursing home, arguing that her residents needed her.

“They know me… they don’t want a stranger [when they are sick],” she said, “I care about those people; they are like extended grandparents in a nutshell.”

Upon returning to the nursing home, Davis changed her nightly routine. Now, when she comes home from work, Davis takes off her nursing uniform before entering the house and leaves it in a plastic bag in the garage. Once a week, she washes the clothes and throws out the infected bag. Though she has successfully avoided bringing the coronavirus into her home, it has become an unavoidable topic for Davis, and it is difficult not to bring work home with her. “There’s no escaping it” she remarked, because the news is filled with reports of the increasing death toll, at 80,820 dead in the United States as of May 13, and the virus seems to be all anyone talks about anymore. Seeing images of college students crowding Florida beaches worries her and she hopes that college students take the current health crisis seriously. 

“I’m dealing with people who didn’t take it seriously,” Davis said, “and they died.”