Here we are again, starting a brand new year, and thoughts of COVID plague us. I’m sorry, did I just roll my eyes out loud? Everybody is sick and tired of being scared, right? We are so over grappling with the uncertainty of “Will I get sick?” and “How sick will I get?”
Many people are terrified to travel, so they’re canceling their plans. Many are frightened to go to work in the office, so they are doing their jobs remotely. And there are folks who refuse to do much of anything because they’re worried about COVID.
Not Everyone Has the Luxury of Hiding from the Pandemic
There is one group that does not get to live in fear: healthcare workers. They have not been able to stay at home in relative safety. They have been on the front lines of this pandemic for almost two full years now.
Let me tell you, from my personal experience; healthcare burnout is real.
Most of the #Strella blog’s loyal readers know that my day job is in healthcare. I am not a nurse, but I was an essential worker during the lockdown, the elective surgery ban, and every restriction thereafter. It has not been easy. When people were collecting massive amounts of unemployment, I was being called in for socially distant staff meetings about how to best serve our patients when they came back.
Our nursing staff was pared down to a skeleton crew to perform care for the people deemed emergent patients, and we had to navigate the red tape required to get special approval to deliver care to those individuals. The nurses kept on to work during the lockdown had to do so knowing that their former co-workers were collecting more money via unemployment than they did when working. Meanwhile, they found themselves subject to derision from the co-workers who were laid off.
Fortunately, we are blessed with an administrator who worked her tail off to get us the right to continue practicing for emergency cases. She wrote letters and applied for assistance to get EVERYONE back to work by May 1, 2020. Basically, she held our fearful little hands through the whole thing. She is a 40-year healthcare veteran and was an essential worker during the Camp Hill prison riots. Even she has seen nothing like what COVID is doing to people.
Let’s Get Real
I’m about to get real for you naysayers, so pay attention.
COVID-19 is a for-real virus.
It morphs and moves differently than any other virus most of us in the healthcare field have ever seen. IT IS KILLING PEOPLE — young people and old people alike. Nurses and the rest of us in the healthcare profession are terrified. Like everyone else, we are tired of wearing masks (in our break room, to the bathroom, and in the locker rooms in the morning).
We are also burned out because we’ve had no reprieve from it.
After we were allowed to start seeing more patients again, we employed two people whose sole position was to call our patients and schedule them for COVID testing in our parking lot. I’m grateful to those women, one of whom was six months pregnant, for their commitment to doing what was required (even standing in the pouring rain, shoving cotton swabs up peoples’ noses) to protect our employees and other patients. I stuck around and helped with some of the phone calls. The number of people who refused testing was astounding.
Grateful for the Good
Overall, people have been incredibly kind to healthcare workers since the elective surgery ban was lifted and everyone went back to work. One group of women brings puppies into the yard outside so that we can get a little bit of relief and have some fun. People have made homemade thank you signs and posted them at our building’s entrances. Patients galore express their appreciation every day, and we are grateful to them. They remind us why we entered this field of work and why we do what we do.
Oh, But the Bad…
Unfortunately, we also encounter our fair share of blowhards who insist the virus is fictional. Some people refuse to wear masks for the mere 20 minutes they spend in the grocery store. And remember when there were fistfights over toilet paper?! Some people even refuse to wear a mask inside medical facilities. Hmmm, and they wonder why there is a healthcare crisis right now.
Surely, you have noticed staff shortages at your local supermarket, hair salon, restaurants, and other businesses. Healthcare facilities are having a difficult time maintaining staff, too.
Why? After nearly two years of dealing with the realities of this virus, we are burnt the hell out!
Nurses are tired of working grueling hours, weary of wearing masks (yes, they are over it too!), and just plain tired.
So, the next time you or someone you know wants to complain about being asked to mask up in Sheetz or moan about the month-long wait to get into your family medical provider’s practice for a check-up, think about things from the other side. Healthcare workers have been masking up for 22 months straight. We didn’t have the option of stopping even when the mask bans were lifted. We do not get to pretend nothing is happening or stop taking care of patients because we are scared.
We are forced to face our fears and carry on. And we are sick of the jerks who refuse to do their part and take the wholly reasonable precautions asked of them to help stop the spread of this relentless virus. Please, the next time you complain or refuse to do what is right, I urge you to think about your local healthcare employees. We are not okay.