January 4, 2021
I never anticipated during my first few years as a nurse I’d encounter a worldwide pandemic.
Scared is an understatement. I was living alone, away from my family and friends. I went to work daily not sure what to anticipate. I watched the available beds dwindle, and the PPE was scarce. They don’t teach you in school how to manage your own emotions when panic is rampant and you can see it riddled in your patients eyes as they cling onto any shred of hope to stay alive. Scared just scratches the surface.
Helpless. How can we feel helpless when we are the helpers? Here’s how… imagine standing in a patient's room and having them look at you with tears in their eyes pleading to Facetime their family because they know it’s their last chance to say goodbye. Just for a moment, try and picture being covered head to toe in a gown, gloves, glasses, face shield and countless other protective pieces. You appear completely humanless. Now picture holding up a cell phone listening to someone thank their family for years of memories, sharing how proud they are of their loved ones accomplishments through a screen.
I’ve done this. Over and over and over again, trying not to feel helpless as tears stream from my face. What’s worse… you can’t even offer an embrace to the person whose life is ending… alone.
Exhausted. Emotionally and physically. It doesn’t stop. The relentless course of changing out of PPE into new PPE. The back of my ears rubbed raw. My face indented from my mask. My eyes are sore from crying. Sleep? How? While I fight back the exhaustion, I think about the patients I’ve lost and how exhausted their loved ones must be. What’s more, I stay awake at night thinking about the closure they’ll never get from a proper farewell.
Despite all of these things, we still show up. Every. Single. Day. Why? Because this isn’t a profession where you seek out recognition. We show up every day because our patients need us, and their families need us. We show up because we’re the helpers.
It’s what we do. It’s who we are.