Elizabeth Haus was in high school when she realized she wanted to work in the medical field. Now, after spending four years on the North Carolina women's lacrosse team from 2015 to 2018, she's a registered nurse stemming the tide of COVID-19 at Children's Hospital Colorado in Denver.
During her time in Chapel Hill, Haus was named to the ACC Honor Roll multiple times and played six games in a 2016 season that culminated in a national title. At one point, she was unsure if she could balance lacrosse and pursuing a nursing degree — an academic adviser had to talk her into it. Two years after graduation, though, she's working 12-hour shifts in a pediatric intensive care unit.
“I think nursing school prepared me for the pandemic in that it’s a possibility, and it’s only a matter of time until another one happens," Haus said. "You just don’t think that it actually will.”
Much of the learning has come on the fly, with occasional briefings on developments and discoveries relating to the virus. The hospital provides a daily COVID-19 update with policy changes and an estimate on the number of cases in the area. Then, of course, there are the extra safety precautions.
When Haus' shift starts, at either 7 a.m. or 7 p.m., she gets her temperature taken, fills out a survey of possible symptoms and gets her face mask for the day. Then she goes to her unit, grabs her personal face shield from the storage room and goes about her work. If a patient has or is suspected of having COVID-19, she has to wear a protective gown and another type of mask around them. Then she has to bring her clothes home in a bag, wash them immediately and do it all again the next day. Nothing to it, right?
“When [the outbreak] first started, it was scary, because we didn’t have a lot of information about it," Haus said. "But now, it doesn’t scare me at all. I worry more about other people getting COVID, or other things, than me getting COVID. I’m a big believer that there’s a pretty huge chunk of us 20- to 40ish-year-olds that have already had it and didn’t even know.”
Overall, there have been less kids in Haus' unit, because kids aren't going to school or to day care. Still, there's been a noticeable increase in both suicide attempts and child abuse cases — disheartening side effects of the pandemic.
“I think it’s something that people forget about," she said, "Unless they’re like me and in a position where you see how horrible it is for someone that’s in such a vulnerable position to be mistreated.”
The best ways to combat this, Haus said, are keeping kids involved in school through Zoom and engaged with teachers and extended family, the people most likely to notice and report abuse. She also noted the importance of getting back to a normal routine.