BOISE, Idaho — A St. Luke's Boise Medical Center clinical pastoral education student spoke about her experience in the ICU since the beginning of the pandemic.
In an interview conducted and recorded by St. Luke's staff, due to safety concerns within the hospital, Jessica Hiatt says what she has seen is heartbreaking.
Jessica Hiatt says she came to Boise to do a clinical pastoral education residency in June 2019. Her ending date was supposed to be May 2020, but with COVID-19, the new residents were unable to start. The staff chaplains at St. Luke's needed extra help, so Hiatt and three others stayed to help.
"It's just heart-wrenching isolation," says Hiatt about the ICU. "Not just COVID families, but you know all families because no visitors come into the hospital."
Hiatt also says she has seen people say goodbye to loved ones over the phone almost every day.
"The COVID deaths are awful. People are saying goodbye on their iPads, iPhones," Hiatt says.
This past weekend, a woman said goodbye to her husband over the phone, and Hiatt was there to talk her through the process.
"I was sitting beside the doctor when she called his wife in Georgia and told her that he had indeed died," Hiatt says. "The doctor told her that news and immediately said 'here's Jessica the chaplain' and handed me the telephone."
Jessica says she didn't sign up to be a chaplain during a pandemic, but she is grateful to be learning as much as she is now.
"I didn't sign on to be a learning student chaplain during a pandemic. I know this is important, and yet that's the way this has gone. I know this will be a valuable experience, but it's horrible," Hiatt says.
Jessica tells Idaho News 6 she hopes that people learn from and remember her experiences, and while things might be stressful, it doesn't take much effort to be kind.