Experiencing COVID-19 As a Nurse and a Patient

April 13, 2020
Jessica Skarzynski

The COVID-19 Pandemic has drastically altered the landscape for both oncology professionals and patients with cancer. For oncology nurse Patricia Jakel, the pandemic has altered both her professional and personal lives as an oncology professional and patient.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact patients with cancer, survivors, caregivers and their families. CURE® recently spoke with Patricia Jakel, a breast cancer survivor and advanced practice nurse at UCLA Medical Center’s solid tumor program, about how her experience as a nurse shaped her journey as a patient, and how she’s seeing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in her personal and professional lives.

After being diagnosed with locally advanced breast cancer, Jakel was “terrified” to experience life on the other side of the hospital bed. “I thought I was empathic before for my patients, but I definitely became more empathic,” she said.

Jakel continues to receive treatment to remain disease-free, but as a result, is considered immunocompromised, which puts her at an increased risk for contracting COVID-19. She was faced with the difficult choice of stopping her treatment and continuing to work or continuing her treatment and working from home.

As an oncology nurse for 37 years, the decision to work from home was not one she made lightly. “I really wanted to be there to take care of the staff and the patients,” she said. “I am so sad that I had to leave work. I was given the choice of stopping treatment or working from home because my white (blood cell) count was low. I can stay out of those isolation rooms, but I don’t know who’s in the elevator with me or who’s going to infect me in the cafeteria.”

Despite the challenges of coaching her staff from afar and venturing out to the clinic to receive her treatment, Jakel stresses the importance of finding happiness in these trying times.

“Find what works for you. If walking or meditation works, just being outside. I don’t care if you go through Netflix for five hours, though I do think it’s a little tough on your body not to get up and move for five hours,” she jokes.

“The things that you were doing to take care of yourself during cancer treatments, you should ramp it up a little bit because social isolation and fear and anxiety are really difficult.”

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