Murrumbidgee Local Health District COVID nurse Michelle Johnson shares story

BEHIND THE PPE: Nurse Michelle Johnson has been working tirelessly in Lavington and Albury at the COVID testing clinics and has been heartened by the amount coming forward for testing.

BEHIND THE PPE: Nurse Michelle Johnson has been working tirelessly in Lavington and Albury at the COVID testing clinics and has been heartened by the amount coming forward for testing.

Michelle Johnson went from a theatre nurse to swabbing hundreds of potential coronavirus infected locals.

The registered nurse, working for the Murrumbidgee Local Health District, has been donning her PPE for the best part of five months working at the COVID-19 clinics across the Riverina.

And while Mrs Johnson admits she personal protective equipment is part of "her core business", she also takes protection very seriously when she gets home for the day.

She is now team leader of the COVID testing clinic at Albury Showgrounds where she is training people, while still helping with swabbing, and keeping a close eye on use of PPE.

"As a theatre nurse, it's part of my job is to be very particular about PPE, so infection control is part of my core business," she said.

"I'm very good at ensuring people are doing the right thing with their donning and doffing (putting PPE on and taking it off again).

"I have no qualms in telling people more senior to me - and I have - how to wear their PPE appropriately."

While three of her adult children have left home, Mrs Johnson lives with her husband, a GP, and their youngest son.

"I'm very particular with my PPE but I'm not going to risk my family members," she said.

"When I get home I have a full shower and clothes washed before interacting with my family. I still don't really cuddle family members and I try to maintain a reasonable amount of social distancing."

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When surgery began to be wound back earlier this year, Mrs Johnson started spending three or four days a week tripping around the Riverina in a COVID testing van, seeing more of the district than she had in 20 years of living in the region.

"It was wonderful to get out and see the Riverina and generally people have been very welcoming," she said.

"We get a lot of thankyous for the work that we do. People appreciate that we are putting ourselves at risk to do a service for them."

Then, with the second serious outbreak in Melbourne, she was needed at the temporary clinic in Lavington, where more than 240 people came to be tested on the clinic's first day.

"We make sure we do it very gently," Mrs Johnson said about swabbing people's throats and nostrils.

She swabbed up to 80 people per day, including some who tested positive. "It is nice to see that people with the slightest symptoms are prepared to get themselves checked, because they don't want to be an unknowing carrier and put other people at risk," she said.

"I see so many people who understand the risk and do the right thing."

This story What is it like swabbing people's throats, noses every day? first appeared on The Border Mail.