On the ‘frontlines’ of the pandemic


Every day during the COVID-19 pandemic is a journey of unknowns for Community Home Health and Hospice nurse Svetlana “Sveita” Zakharov. Who will she come into contact with today? How many people is she going to see? Are there going to be enough masks? 

“Every morning I get up (and) it's a little unknown in terms of what to expect,” Zakharov said. “Typically, every morning you get up, take a look at your schedule and review your day. You kind of see if there are any concerns with any patients. Especially now with COVID, we screen all of our patients.” 

Zakharov is a registered nurse at Community Home Health and Hospice. She spends her days making home visits to patients with a multitude of different needs. From regular checkups to COVID-19 care, Zakharov keeps the older population safe and well during a time of uncertainty. 

It’s during this morning screening period and time of reflection that Zakharov starts to see what kind of day she’s going to have in the field. She asks screening questions about how patients are feeling and determines their risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus. 

“If there’s anyone I feel that is high risk for exposure, I then talk about it and go to my supervisor about getting some extra Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), just to make sure I’m protected for the day and for the visits after that,” she said.

If a patient has possibly contracted COVID-19, Zakharov starts to get suited up. She puts on an N95 mask, a gown with hair and shoe coverings and brings in only a limited set of materials needed to perform the home checkup. 

If it’s just a routine checkup on a low-risk patient, Zakharov wears a mask and uses hand sanitizer to stay clean. 

“You can’t go into a home or an office without a mask,” she said, mentioning that having constant access to running water is unknown so her and her colleagues pack hand sanitizers with them wherever they go. 

When she’s at home, Zakharov limits her exposure to family members in the same home as her to ensure she’s being as safe as possible. 

“It’s always a bit stressful coming home and not really knowing what you’re going to run into,” she said, mentioning that her brothers are immunocompromised so she avoids contact with them. “I always come home and do extra hygiene and be as healthy as I can with my family.” 

As for the biggest challenge in her day-to-day life, it’s waking up and not knowing what to expect. 

“The biggest challenge is everyday you wake up and it’s a little bit of the unknown. You try not to think about what work will be like in a month or two, you take it day by day,” Zakharov said. “To be honest, when it all started a couple of months ago, it was a little more stressful. 

Zakharov explained how not knowing if the organization will have enough supplies is one of her daily worries.

“Limited supplies are the biggest struggle,” she said, mentioning that the biggest question at the forefront of her mind is “can I take care of my patients safely?” 

Obtaining more supplies such as masks, hand sanitizers and other necessities that they usually always have access to is more difficult now. 

According to Zakharov, the patient response to the pandemic has been “inspiring” as all the patients she works with understand her struggle as a nurse on the front lines and donate what they can to support her and the other nurses at Community Home Health and Hospice. 

“I’ve had patients give me masks, gloves and hand sanitizer that they donate through the agency and that’s been really helpful,” she said. “Every day is kind of a challenge without knowing if there’s enough supplies for tomorrow.”

Community members have also reached out to the agency and donated funds, hand sanitizer and masks that the agency can give out to their patients.

“We can give patients masks so they can wear them out in public to limit their risk of exposure to COVID,” she said. 

While not knowing if there’s going to be enough supplies can bring some stress to her work, Zakharov said she really enjoys seeing the faces of patients light up when she comes to check on them. When the pandemic is over, Zakharov said one of the biggest things she is looking forward to is being able to see those smiles without them being behind the mask and giving them a smile right back. 

If you would like to donate supplies or funds to Community Home Health and Hospice, visit CHHH.org