NURSE Jacqui Rodgers is often the first person that patients who may have COVID-19 meet when they arrive at John Hunter Hospital.
Dressed in blue theatre scrubs, a cap, glasses, mask and gloves, Ms Rodgers, 27, alternates between two roles: screening every patient at the main entrance and swabbing patients who need to be tested for the virus in the clinic.
"We're the first point of contact," Ms Rodgers said.
"We screen each patient who comes into the emergency department, ask them specific questions.
"If they're coming in specifically for COVID-19 screening we screen them, pop a mask on them if they don't have one, do their observations and send them down to the clinic, where we do the swabs.
"It's a nose and throat swab and takes less than 10 seconds.
"Then we give them a fact sheet and if their observations are within the flags we send them on their way to isolate at home.
"It's definitely one of those things you'll never forget in terms of your career.
"The preparation you see in the emergency department - everyone is so ready to fight COVID-19.
"I don't think I'll live through another pandemic, fingers crossed, and it will be nice to have been involved in such a critical time in the world and how we helped people survive and get better."
She said she understood why some patients felt "quite anxious", but that she's not feeling "personally apprehensive".
"We've got the appropriate personal protective equipment and I'm confident with my own hand hygiene and correct policies to go ahead and quite comfortable to talk to patients."
But that doesn't mean the risk of exposure hasn't crossed her mind.
She drives to and from work in ordinary clothes and changes into scrubs, which she leaves at the hospital to be washed.
"There's a risk I will get it, but we take steps to make sure we are personally protected and we've been well educated and kept informed by managers about what is required to be safe."
Ms Rodgers is no stranger to working with critically ill or infectious patients.
An enjoyment of helping to care for the community coupled with an interest in health led her to nursing.
She is working eight or 12 hour shifts, three or four days a week.
"I feel like the Hunter region has been quite nice," she said.
"Everyone has been really receptive. I personally have not seen any forms of aggression or ill will towards health staff.
"We're constantly getting orders of Doughheads dropped off to us which we really appreciate.
"We've had so many lovely people donating scrub caps for us too. It definitely lifts our spirits during this time."
Ms Rodgers said she had been buoyed by the region's response to restrictions and a recent absence of new cases.
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