During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitals tightened restrictions on visitors and who could access certain areas. This meant that no photographers, videographers, or others could visually document what was happening inside COVID-19 intensive care units.
However, one UAB Medicine nurse answered the call and provided Birmingham, Ala. and the entire nation a rare look at the front lines inside UAB Medicine’s COVID ICUs, which included the Medical Intensive Care Unit, the Cardiac Care Unit, the Trauma Recovery Unit (which opened in mid-2020 on the Hospitalist 3 unit), and the Neurosciences Intensive Care Unit.
“Some of us were talking in the command center, and what we really wanted to do was showcase all of the great work and challenges our nurses, staff, physicians, and providers were doing every day at the bedside,” says Amanda Chambers, MSN, a senior director of Nursing Services at UAB Medicine. “They asked if I could start taking some real-life shots of our staff working in our COVID areas.”
Chambers says having a nurse taking pictures really made it a seamless process.
“I blended into the background, and I knew what they were doing, so I was able to help highlight what they wanted,” she says. “We wanted the public to see the frontline battle against COVID.”
Chambers recalls her first impressions of the COVID units.
“I think the first real experience for me was that it was extremely complex,” she says. “It was hot and it was uncomfortable with all of the appropriate protective equipment on. But the other thing that I saw was really a sadness for the lack of any family involvement in those areas. When you went in there, it was really just to help your team there with those patients, and those can be some of the scariest and most intimate moments.”
Although she has been a nurse at UAB Medicine for years, having a barrier verbally and visually was a stark reminder of the situation she and her colleagues were in.
“I can only imagine what our patients are seeing,” she says.
Chambers became a window to the world in late 2020 when her photos were featured on ABC’s “World News Tonight With David Muir.” She says her colleagues were excited and thankful that millions were able to get a glimpse into daily life at UAB Medicine.
“My co-workers have been really thankful and proud that our profession was highlighted on a national level,” she says. “The nation has been able to see behind the curtains into our COVID units and what it is really like for patients and ourselves, so they definitely have been very excited and energized when they’ve seen themselves or a colleague or someone they know on the national front being highlighted for the care they deliver.”
View some of Amanda’s photos below.