SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Nurse Karen Sullivan remembers the day well. It was shortly after Christmas of 2019.
During a routine shift huddle of healthcare workers in the ER at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, there was talk of a new corona virus spreading in China.
"I go; it's never going to hit here. We're fine, but here are the symptoms to watch for," recalled Sullivan, who is the ER patient care manager.
A month later, on February 10Th, the first COVID-19 positive patient was confirmed in San Diego County.
"Thinking of the anxiety of not knowing what was coming and setting up all of the tents outside and opening up surge areas and reassuring staff that we had everything that we needed," said Sullivan.
The tents quickly filled up. The pandemic had begun. Life, as many knew it, was over.
"In the ER, you just put your head down and just do the work. You power through the patients," said Sullivan.
While she focused on her patients, Sullivan was also worried about what she was possibly bringing home to her immunocompromised son.
"I go home. I shower. I put myself in my room. There's not a lot of talking, it would kill me if he got it and something were to happen," said Sullivan.
The vaccines brought some relief but also unexpected backlash.
"It was really hard for staff to go from being these heroes and working through the pandemic to being these awful people because we believe in the vaccine and we want to wear masks, and the verbal abuse was just escalating," said Sullivan.
The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses recently surveyed roughly 6,000 nurses nationwide. It found nurses are leaving the profession in record numbers.
Among the findings: 92% said their careers would be shorter than originally intended. 66% are considering leaving nursing, and 67% believe taking care of COVID-19 patients puts their families at risk.
"It's just a little disheartening that, as healthcare, we believe that the masks are a huge benefit, and it really does cut down on transmission and the vaccine and then people not doing that," said Sullivan.
Today the number of COVID-19 patients admitted into Scripps Mercy is down to the single digits.
"Everybody now is calm about it, oh it's just another covid patient. Everybody puts their gowns on, their masks on, their face shields, and it's not really a second thought about what's going to happen because they've been through it three times already," said Sullivan.
Sullivan hopes the new "Deltacron" variant doesn't lead to a fourth surge.
"It actually makes me a little sick to my stomach thinking we might have to go through this again," said Sullivan.
Through it all, she's proud of her team and her profession.
"I couldn't have come every day if it wasn't for my team."