Mahasti Shahlaie Moghaddan, wearing scrubs and a surgical mask, stands in the pediatric wing at St. Joseph's.

Mahasti Shahlaie Moghaddam (Photo: Marlene Leung)

As we enter the New Year, Unity Health staff and physicians are sharing their hopes for 2022 and reflecting on what they’ve learned during the pandemic. Here’s what they said.

Mahasti Shahlaie Moghaddam is a pediatric RN at St. Joseph’s Health Centre.

When the pandemic first started it was very difficult. We didn’t know as much about COVID as we know now, and staff, nurses, physicians and patients were worried about being exposed. We had to be flexible and work as a team, be confident and strong, and no matter what, we had to help our patients.

At the time, my mother had come from Iran and was staying with me while she was being treated for cancer, so it was hard. Everyone was dealing with something at home. But we all had to just work and keep our patients and families safe, as well keep ourselves safe.

Many of us were deployed to different departments, so we had to learn to work with different people. I was initially moved to the COVID Assessment Centre, where I learned how to test people for COVID-19, but after a few months I moved to the NICU.

It was challenging being in the NICU, because many of the families were worried about their newborns, especially first-time parents. At the start of the pandemic, there were limits on how many people could visit their babies, sometimes it was just one parent and in some cases no parents could come at all. This was upsetting to a lot of families who were scared that something might happen to their children, many who were born premature. This situation had limited and compromised the effectiveness of our family centered care which is the principle of the nursing care on NICU and pediatric floors.

So we just worked as a team to support these families. Everyone helped – social workers, lactation consultants, educators and managers – we tried to spend more time with the families to calm their fears and support them emotionally. Everybody played a role.

Despite all this, there were happy moments too. Whenever a preemie baby who stayed in the NICU for a few weeks got to go home, we would have a mini “graduation” party for them, and we would involve the families whenever we could. There were also opportunities for education and learning, where we could teach parents how to spend time with their babies in a safe environment. It was challenging, but we did our best and there were real moments of joy, of course.

My hope for the New Year is that we take better care of each other. Now that we know so much more about COVID, how it spreads and how to protect ourselves, I am hopeful that we begin to feel a responsibility to support and protect each other, by protecting ourselves.

Everyone should know that by protecting yourself, you’re not just taking care of yourself, you’re taking care of your family, friends and community.

I’m also hopeful that we support each other and be less judgmental. At the start of the pandemic, there were a lot of judgments, some which I faced as a nurse. I remember hearing stories that people didn’t want to come too close to nurses, because they were scared of catching COVID-19. Now, I hope we can focus on giving each other more information and support, so people better understand how to protect themselves. I’m hoping everyone can consider this as we work to end COVID-19.

– As told to Marlene Leung. This interview has been edited and condensed.