'It's an interesting way to go out': retiring nurse reflects on pandemic effort after 40-year career

From personal protective equipment, screening for symptoms, contact tracing or administering hundreds of vaccines - COVID-19 has changed the job description of many registered nurses over the last 16 months.

Diane Murray knows firsthand.

"The first thing I ended up going is over the Easter weekend (last year) I was screening at the emergency room in Fredericton so it was challenging to see people coming in and recognizing that, whatever their situation was, they had to be alone. It didn't matter what happened," she said.

Murray has been a registered nurse for 40 years. She's nearing retirement, and sat down with CTV Atlantic to reflect on the last year of her career. 

"By far the greatest part of my life, I've been a nurse," she said. "That's been my identity."

Once the vaccine rollout begun, Murray was redeployed again. This time immunizing healthcare workers, then the general public.

She has administered the vaccine to hundreds if not thousands, but there are some who are particularly memorable.

"I actually vaccinated a nurse who was well into her seventies as a healthcare worker. But she said, 'Well, I knew they were going to need nurses, so I'm going back to work,'" she said.

Some days, Murray draws up the needles, carefully calculating the correct amount. She says not one dose or vial is wasted. 

She says many RN's have come out of retirement, or use their vacation time to fill shifts at the vaccine clinics.

Nurses have been a massive part of the pandemic effort despite an ongoing staffing shortage, says N.B. Nurses Union president Paula Doucet. 

They're also listening to the stories and experiences of patients they're immunizing. 

"They treat, they assess, they diagnose and they have those conversations to ease the anxiety and the angst of patients in front of them," she said. "I know those meaningful conversations are taking place as they administer the vaccine."

Murray says the last year and a half of her career has been full of challenging lows and uplifting highs.

"It's an interesting way to go out, but it will be bittersweet because you wonder, what will be?"