Searing photos show what it’s like inside this San Diego hospital right now

Healthcare workers
Nurses Linda Isidienu, left, and Michael Manriquez watch as Tiffany Matthews, a respiratory therapist, cares for an intubated COVID-19 patient diagnosed inside a negative-pressure isolation room at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

From doctors and nurses to technicians and maintenance employees, many healthcare workers are finding themselves learning to do long-familiar jobs in new ways as they battle COVID-19.

In emergency rooms and intensive care units, front-line workers have a universal observation: Caring for COVID-19 patients safely takes extreme levels of coordination. A reporter and photographer got a close look at those efforts April 10 when Sharp HealthCare, San Diego’s largest health system, granted access to two of its main locations, Sharp Memorial Hospital and Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.

Whether turning sedated patients in ICU beds, collecting samples from newly arrived emergency patients for testing, or monitoring blood oxygen levels at the bedside, no one works without significant backup. Workers who enter patient rooms are under the watchful gaze of colleagues on the unit. Emergency workers used to moving quickly from patient to patient have had to learn to slow down as they put on and take off layer after layer of protective equipment.

It’s not, says registered nurse and infection preventionist Cindy Stuart, just about the work of doctors and nurses. Though those two categories of healthcare worker tend to get most of the attention, the cast of characters in this particular drama is much broader.

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“None of this could be achieved without so many, our respiratory department, our lab workers, our support staff, engineering, IT, I mean everybody,” Stuart said. “This could not happen without the entire multidisciplinary team. When I hear that phrase ‘healthcare heroes,’ I know people think doctors and nurses, but it’s so much more than that.”

April Bandi cares for a patient at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego.
Wearing personal protective equipment, nurse April Bandi cares for a patient with possible COVID-19 symptoms inside a negative-pressure isolation room Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Nurse checks patient's vital signs
Nurse Arnold Garcia checks Michael Weiss’ vital signs after he was admitted with possible COVID-19 symptoms at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Nurse helps doctor put on personal protective equipment
Dr. Keith Yablonicky, center, gets help from nurse Jennifer Livengood putting on his personal protective equipment.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Nurses disinfect personal protective equipment
Nurse Sarah Barrile, left, gets help from nurse Brittney Grayson disinfecting her personal protective equipment after caring for a patient who is using a ventilator.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Nurses monitor patients' details
Nurses check the details on emergency department patients at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
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Nurse Arnold Garcia, center, gets help from a colleague disinfecting his gear.
Nurse Arnold Garcia, center, gets help from a colleague in decontaminating and disinfecting his personal protective equipment after treating a patient with possible COVID-19.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
EMTs unload a patient
Staff unload a patient who has COVID-19 symptoms at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Nurses perform an N95 fit test
Nurses perform an N95 respirator fit test at the new ICU wing at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
RN Sarah Barrile cares for a patient
Nurse Sarah Barrile cares for a patient with COVID-19 symptoms who has been placed on a ventilator.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
RNs Shauna Stanfill, left, and  Arnold Garcia
Nurses Shauna Stanfill, left, and Arnold Garcia care for Michael Weiss at Sharp Chula Vista.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
RN Linda Isidienu displays her worn-out face visor
Linda Isidienu displays her visor, which has been used and cleaned repeatedly as medical staff try to preserve protective gear at the medical center.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Nurses help nurses
Nurses stand by to aid fellow nurses working inside the negative-pressure isolation room where patients with COVID-19 symptoms are placed.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
RN Linda Isidienu cares for an intubated patient
Linda Isidienu cares for an intubated patient at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.
(Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)
A nurse gets help putting on her personal protective equipment at Sharp Chula Vista.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
RN Reyna Gomez, left, communicates with Norah Pena and John Stanley
Reyna Gomez, left, communicates with Norah Pena and John Stanley, who are caring for a COVID-19 patient.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
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RN Michael Manriquez, RN Linda Isidienu and Tiffany Matthews, a respiratory therapist
From left, nurses Michael Manriquez and Linda Isidienu, and Tiffany Matthews, a respiratory therapist, carefully reposition an intubated patient.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

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