Photos courtesy of Allison Sheffieck.

Allison Sheffieck is a Lake Highlands High School grad. After receiving her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Texas Tech University, she became a registered nurse at Parkland Hospital. “I want people to know behind the mask, hat, glasses and face shield I am a normal person. But, none of this would be possible without my family.” Sheffieck said. The White House and CDC recently announced the recommendation for citizens to wear masks when they leave the home. Here’s Sheffieck’s advice:

“Pictured is my husband, Scott; my two sisters; Caroline and Sarah;  my parents: Andrew and Diane Combs; our dog, Nelson, and my sister’s boyfriend Brett Stell.”

How is working as a nurse at Parkland right now?

Thus far Parkland has been fortunate to have not been hit as hard by the pandemic. However, we have been preparing and anticipating that things are going to get busy in the next coming weeks. We are seeing quite a few patients with respiratory symptoms and treating them based on their presentation and symptoms. As of right now we have our department separated into two sections. One side is for our respiratory/possible COVID-19 patients and the other side is for all of our other patients who are not complaining of COVID-19 like symptoms. By doing this we are trying to prevent any further transmission of the virus. 

What are the biggest challenges?

The biggest we’ve faced is a shortage of PPE [personal protective equipment]. We are having to be very conservative with all of our protective supplies. As of right now we are given one mask to wear for the night and we have been cleaning them between patients. We have also turned our entire department into a “masked unit” meaning all employees who are working in the ED [emergency department] are wearing face masks the entire night. Many of us have also opted to start wearing surgical hats to keep our hair covered. I want to give a huge thank you to the kind women of Ridgewood Park United Methodist Church who have offered to make hats for my coworkers and me. We really appreciate this. Another Challenge we’ve faced, which is harder than being low of PPE or wearing a mask for 12 hours, is not knowing who truly has COVID-19 and who doesn’t. This is one of the scariest parts of our job right now because the person who only has a small cough may be the one that is positive. 

How has it impacted home life?

Fortunately my home life has not drastically changed for the bad but rather the good in someways. My husband for the past five months has been working out of Austin. His company asked all employees to work from home so he has been able to move back home for the time being. This has been nice to have him back at home with me.  However my routine when I come home from work has changed. I usually change into new clothes in the garage and my scrubs go straight to the washer. When I enter I use alcohol wipes to open all the doors with and turn the sink on so I can wash my hands. I try to keep everything that has entered the hospital separate from everything else. 

As a medical professional, what would you like readers to know?

Stay home. If you must leave, only one person should go out. Please don’t take your kids. If you choose to wear a mask, that’s perfectly fine but please don’t go out and buy a surgical or N95 mask as we are so low in the hospital, we need every one we can take. If you already have a mask that is fine but please rewear it. You can clean the front of it with a Clorox wipe and refold it to its original shape when you’re done. Also when wearing a mask, make sure you’re wearing it correctly otherwise it’s useless. Make sure it’s covering your nose and goes down below your chin. Don’t touch the front of the mask as that is where all the particles are being caught. 

How is your family coping?

They’re doing okay. My parents are worried, but I’ve done my best to reassure them that I am doing everything in my power to stay safe. 

How is your social distancing going?

Since I’m going to work three days a week it hasn’t been as hard since I’m allowed to actually leave. But my days off are different. Before the coronavirus, we’d take our dog Heidi to the dog park or the lake, and it’s been hard to not do that. We were also supposed to go to Seattle the first weekend in April and had to cancel that. I also miss my target runs and eating out. 

What is the best and worst part about your job right now?

I work with an amazing team of coworkers and everyone has come together to get through these scary and unknown times. The community has also stood behind us and made sure we have been well fed. The Dallas Mavs, Ridgewood Park UMC, Highland Park UMC are just a few of many that have donated food and supplies to us. I’m not sure if there’s a “worst part” so much as a scary part. Some of the people in the public have become afraid of health-care staff and have resorted to verbal and physical violence against us. I have not experienced this first hand but I have many friends that have had encounters with people in the public and in the hospital. What I really want the public and our patients to understand is that we are doing everything we can to ensure we don’t spread the virus around the hospital and the community. Know that if you see us in scrubs, they are likely clean and we’re on our way to work or they are clean scrubs we’ve changed into after working in scrubs provided by the hospital during our shift.