BALTIMORE (WJZ) — 2020 was a taxing year for healthcare workers, many of whom spent countless hours inside hospitals fighting an invisible monster: COVID-19. As the year comes to an end, they’re looking forward to what 2021 may bring.

With multiple COVID-19 vaccines rolling out, hope is on the horizon.

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Three nurses — Emily Dodson and Summer Prudent with Levindale’s COVID-19 unit and Ashley Keating, the assistant manager at Carroll Hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab — recalled how the pandemic shaped their work lives in 2020 and what comes next.

“It was just a lot of things were different… very quickly,” Dodson said.

Keating said leaving work every night was like a bad dream. Each morning, she woke up and had to do it all over again.

She described battling COVID-19 as “like fighting an invisible problem.”

“It’s tough,” she said. “We come in here and we do it and we go home and come back and do it the next day.”

Keating had never met Dodson and Prudent before joining them in a Zoom interview. While their places of work are different, their stories and fears about COVID-19 are the same.

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In the beginning att Levindale, a long-term care facility, employees were running on empty.

“We started out with just one hallway of COVID patients. Eventually, it became the whole entire unit,” Dodson recalled.

The nurses watched with a front-row seat as caseloads grew, changed and reshaped life as most people know it.

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Each put on a brave face as intensive care beds filled up and personal protective equipment ran low.

“It was definitely stressful because you’re worried, ‘When I come next time, am I going to have what I need?'” Dodson said.

Battling long hours and frightened patients, their job descriptions now included delivering bad news to family members over the phone.

“It was a tough one,” Prudent said.

For Prudent, the risk was tripled. Just a few weeks into the outbreak, she found out she was pregnant with twins.

“It was close to me emotionally, mentally, thinking I’m going to get it,” she said.

Although the pandemic forced them to learn how to care for patients with no cure, it also forced them to learn how to take care of themselves.

“Having the people around you on your team, you’re making it through it and you’re doing it,” Keating said.

With 2020 coming to an end and vaccines rolling out, the end to a dark year is near. The lessons learned, though, will stay with them forever.

“You just kind of feel like, wow, you can handle a lot more than you thought you could,” Dodson said.

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Kelsey Kushner