“Covid. In nutshell, it has taken on a new meaning.
At the start of this interesting time, I was a wife and mom who just so happened to have return to work only a couple months prior to the storm that would ensue. Nurse, that’s what I am, who I am, aside from any other titles I hold.
Now returning to work, though stressful and sad all wrapped up in a god awfully messy albeit pretty little bow, I was as ready as I could be.
Yes, we had heard rumblings of what ever virus that had China in its grip but, being from a small rural community, I never really gave it all too much thought. Fast forward only a couple of months, and everything I thought I knew about being a nurse, mom, wife, and overall everything in general seemingly flipped on its head.
Currently, I’m heading into my 10th year as nurse, with another 5 years tacked on in various healthcare settings. That being said, I ‘thought’ I knew my job, my place, my path. If I’ve learned anything during this time, it’s that I’m may be wrong more that I am right.
In the beginning, as all the news surfaced about Covid hitting the U.S., I like some of my other counterparts in my field wrote off the idea of a pandemic. As in, during nursing school there is only a whopping 10-page section that skims historical pandemics and plagues. It was never something that seemed plausible, something we never would even have to plan or train for.
Yet March of 2020, here we sat. Being notified via a barrage of incessant emails about plans, procedures, eminent furloughs, and various other details in policy changes to expect near immediately.
First thought was, okay I have a 5-month-old and a 2-year-old. Reduced hours will be not so bad. I can be a mom, be safe at home. But soon enough, I received a notification I was being put in a specialized group to staff an overflowing emergency room…bad. (I had left the ER/UC for good prior to my first child being born).
We did crash-course training, Addended schedules, threw ourselves in to new work flows all while trying to keep up with ever-changing rules, regulations, and healthcare data.For the first few months, we convinced ourselves there was light at the end of the tunnel. This won’t last long, no more than a year, we can do this, we can figure this out. Can’t we?
We taught ourself skills, like making hats to wear as part of our new mandatory uniform, how make masks. We were forced to wear the same masks for so long the fibers would loosen and we would aspirate them. Our n95 had to be stored in paper lunch bags and reused over and over. They tried UV sterilization to extend the useable time, but all it did for us was cause headache and nausea from the fumes it gave off.
Faces got pressure injuries, as well as ears. I myself have now acquired cystic acne anywhere the masks touch. Painful, but we pushed on. And what my small, rural community faced pales in comparison to urban areas and large healthcare facilities.
Then, things slowly lightened. No more shields, only goggles, hats are by choice, I get to have a clean mask daily now. We have a mandated vaccine, policies are still ever-changing. Instead of multiple daily emails, it’s weekly. The mood is okay. Morale is low, we are burnt out. But no one truly seems to care.
Last year, we were hailed heroes by some. Behind the scenes, it was a constant barrage of angry people calling and yelling, about wanting to come in, or not, people wanting excuses, letters, things we couldn’t offer at times. We have been called every name under the sun. Patients blamed us for lack of care and overabundant rules we have no say or control over. They blamed us for pushing the vaccine, or are angry at our trepidation; we somehow are always the problem.
We are stared at going anywhere in scrubs, though we may not even been in contact with a patient those days. For example, I went to a park to meet family and spend time with my kids. I stayed away from people, only to have comments like ‘this is why the parks are going to get shut down’ pointing at me. I scooped my kids up and left. They are too young to understand why mommy is upset, and why those people are pointing at her. Somehow, somewhere, we became the enemy. Only a savior when it was convenient.
What you don’t see, is us seeing that positive test and knowing you, your family, the history and praying with all we have you make it. We had some that didn’t, some we never thought we would lose, but we did. Some that hurt us to lose. Some hung on. Some came through unscathed. I myself, a 32-year-old, healthy individual now have ‘long covid.’ Nearly 10 months later and still have symptoms. I continue to work.
We’ve done our best, we’ve taken every precaution. We’ve followed the rules, made decisions based on the knowledge we had. We sometimes had to pick between what is good for work and what is good for our families. We are tired, we are angry, we are burnt out. And we are leaving the field alarmingly, with no hope to replace us fast enough.
So be gentle, be kind. Please don’t yell, berate, or launch assaults on us. I can say for myself that I loved being a nurse, for many years. But now, I may only stay for fear of starting over. Help us, help us get that spark back, help us renew the passion we had for healthcare, for you.”
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