When Elodie Bailey began nursing in early 2020 she had no idea she'd soon be working in a pandemic.
But for the new graduate, working on Melbourne's COVID-19 wards alongside more experienced colleagues made her challenging new job less daunting.
One co-worker, registered nurse Stephanie Molinaro, became a good friend and Elodie, 23, credits her for helping her through the toughest days.
"Seeing Stephanie's warm eyes and hearing a friendly voice made the hard days easier," she says.
"She'd regularly check in and ask how I was going. I can't say 'thank you' enough."
Unable to see each other's faces through the layers of personal protective equipment, the nurses formed a strong friendship as they worked across several hospitals on wards treating COVID-19.
Elodie was often bedside as her patients took their last breath.
"It was very emotionally draining.
"On a daily basis, families would have to watch their loved ones take their last breath via video call and I would sit there holding their hands as they passed," she remembers.
But Stephanie, 24, was always there to support and comfort Elodie.
"She helped me navigate the physical and emotional burden and she reassured me that this wasn't what nursing was usually like."
Stephanie also found that their friendship became a much appreciated part of her day.
"Having a friend like Elodie is a blessing," she says.
"We're able to lean on each other and lift each other up.
"Having people who you feel supported by in these hard moments is irreplaceable."
As Australia finds itself under lockdown yet again, Elodie – who was working on a post-surgery ward with Stephanie – is back on the front line.
"It's always daunting… my heart went out to all the healthcare workers when case numbers rose – stay strong!"
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