COVID-19 (coronavirus) Featured

Meet Natacha and Shauna, the Emergency Department nurses who cared for the first COVID-19 patient in Canada

Nurses Natacha and Shauna pose next to a stretcher in Sunnybrook's emergency department

Natacha Hainzelin (left) thrives on the hustle and bustle and compassionate work of life as an Emergency Department (ED) nurse. A part of the Sunnybrook team for four years, “the pace of the ED is where I’m at my best,” she says. “We get to care for and help people get the answers they need.”

Shauna Tavernier (right) has worked at Sunnybrook for nine years. She started in a different department, but quickly found she loved the fast-paced environment and work the ED provides. “The ED is my perfect match. I am definitely in my element,” Shauna says.

January 23, 2020, had already been a busy day in the ED. “We were all very aware that the virus now known as COVID-19 could arrive in Toronto any day,” says Natacha.

“We got a heads up from paramedics that a patient with symptoms and recent travel to Wuhan was en route, so we prepared the negative pressure room. The potential risk wasn’t top of mind at the time. I felt protected in my personal protective equipment (PPE) and our first priority was making sure the patient was stable.”

Once the patient arrived, Shauna did his nasopharyngeal swab, Natacha did his bloodwork and they both assessed him for any other medical issues. Shauna and Natacha say they never felt daunted, and put their patient’s needs and care first.

“When we got confirmation of his diagnosis, it was quite something to grasp that we cared for the first COVID-19 patient in Canada,” Natacha says.

Nearly a year into the global pandemic, Shauna and Natacha reflect on what they’ve learned since that night.

“There is no normalcy to our days we definitely use more PPE now,” Shauna says. “We screen everyone who comes into the ED for symptoms because they could be a potential COVID-19 carrier.”

As nurses on the frontline of the pandemic, Natacha and Shauna want others to know it’s completely normal to be uncertain of the unknown.

“Stay connected virtually with people; continue to protect yourself and others. Wear your mask, and practice physical distancing and hand hygiene – it may feel tedious, but it’s effective if done properly. Hospital teams are always here to help, but there’s a lot the public can do to keep themselves safe. We’re all in this together.”