When the first patients arrived at Concord Hospital, Dawn Chapman was on the front lines.
Chapman was a veteran registered nurse in the hospital’s respiratory unit, but all her training and experience had not prepared her for the waves of illness and death to come over the months, then years, ahead.
“There were so many heartbreaking times,” she said. “But on the other hand, we had some amazing comebacks too.”
The second wave of COVID in the winter of 2021-22 was the worst, she said, with “absolutely the sickest patients.”
Her father died from COVID in September 2021.
The pandemic has changed everything about the job she loves, Chapman said, with hospital-wide staffing shortages. The patients arrive sicker and remain in the hospital longer, she said, with no beds available in skilled nursing facilities to transfer them.
“We’re tired. We’re stretched so thin,” she said. “You feel like you’re spinning plates.”
So she’s leaving inpatient care, and will work at an urgent-care facility instead. “My heart is breaking,” she said through tears. “I love what I do, and I think I’m good at what I do.
“Seeing a patient at their absolute worst, and being a part of the team that is helping that patient to improve, get better, go home where they belong.”
COVID has changed her, too, she said. After all the tragedies she witnessed, she said, “I appreciate life a little bit more.”
Two years ago, Chapman was one of four New Hampshire health care workers chosen to fly to the Super Bowl in Tampa on the Patriots’ plane. It was an experience she’ll always treasure, she said.
Back then, health care workers were being hailed as heroes — a title Chapman resisted at the time. “We were just doing our job,” she said.
Today’s nurses deserve that title, she said, but society no longer thinks of them that way.
So what does Chapman want future generations to know about these pandemic times?
“I just want the world to know I tried my best,” she said.