My blog has been quiet lately. I haven’t found myself in the correct headspace to actually write. I would start a post and then just abandon it because the words sounded choppy and there was no connection to it. My innermost voices have been a symphony of different emotions, one jockeying harder than the others to be heard, only to leave me unable to hear myself over the chaos. I shouldn’t write if I can’t clearly have a finely tuned point, right?
Absolutely wrong. It dawned on me tonight, somewhere between making the Dutch Apple pie and the pumpkin loaf, that this is the most spot on moment to get all the things churning in my brain out. I cannot be alone in feeling that I am.
Being a healthcare worker is hard, on its best day. Even during the moments that one feels accomplished, there is a stream of sadness that constantly ebbs along. Did you lose a patient today? Did you feel the pain of someone’s terminal diagnosis? Did you tell a patient you would see them tomorrow knowing full well you wouldn’t? It comes with the gig. We knew that for the Everest like highs, there would be dark bitter lows. But, nothing could have ever prepared us for all of this.
Take a look at your fellow nurses and doctors.. do they seem a little more tired to you? Do they seem more stoic? Our smiles are still there but, perhaps the twinkle in our eyes has faded a bit. We are exhausted. In every way exhaustion could manifest itself, we are.
Each day brings a tidal wave of emotions from tears of joy to tears of sadness. Anger that this is occurring to confusion at those that don’t want to recognize the ferocity and the magnitude of what’s happening. It’s so simple. Wear a mask. Stay home. Wash your hands. But, for us, it’s not simple. A special mask, face shield, gown, gloves and then, to top off all of that call mom we’re still coming home peeling off our clotheswant to recognize the ferocity and the magnitude of what’s happening. It’s so simple. Wear a mask. Stay home. Wash your hands. But, for us, it’s not simple. A special mask, face shield, gown, gloves and then, to top off all of that call mom we’re still coming home peeling off our clothes i’m praying that nothing has leached on anywhere so that we could do something that’s out of our worst nightmares. Bringing it home to the ones that we love. It just becomes this a vicious cycle of questioning and doubting and worrying and praying.
But, then I see those that think this is all a joke. Those that won’t let a pandemic dampen their partying. A mask, to them, has become the literal hill they choose to die on. I am afraid to go home to my family and they gather in the hopes of proving everyone wrong. That’s disrespectful to their families. That’s a slap in the face to those of us that work so hard to heal and keep safe.
Now, I have to admit, as a hospice nurse, I’ve taken some pretty big hits lately. There have been been some pretty significant deaths. People I’ve had for a very long time and they’ve taken a spot in my heart. People who I fought to keep on hospice because I knew it was the best thing for them. People whose death makes me stop and reflect on my own life and the things that I am doing. I think I’ve cried more in the past week about patient deaths than I have in the past years doing what I do. I was talking it over with a fellow nurse and she said that yes we all might need boundaries, but boundary sometimes prevent us from being that nurse.
I found myself becoming more of a hermit, of sorts. Not just because of Covid, but because I’m tired. I never knew that emotional exhaustion was so powerful. That literally, every cell in my being is crying out for a recharge. My mind never wanted to accept that sometimes, the weight of the world really does feel like it falls on nurses.
I don’t care what kind of nurse you are, or, what kind of practice you have. We are the gate keepers. We are the truth tellers. We are the touchstones. We are the ones who have to summon strength in order to project it out for someone who needs it. We have to be the smile behind the tears. We are the peace keepers, putting our own struggles to the side and finding that delicate line in order to try to cultivate harmony. We are the advocates, forgetting all else in the process, and championing for those we served.
Our hearts are also broken. I don’t know of a time when we have been more terrified. Emotions, like terror and worry, carry weight and that weight is heavy upon us. I might be able to shed my mask in my gown at the end of a visit, but, is there a way to shed my worry?
Ironically, I couldn’t see myself ever doing anything but being a nurse or being in the healthcare field. Yes, we still smile. Yes, we try to lighten the burden as much as possible But, we are tired. We long for a day one the best medicine we could give was a hug. When the expressions on our face echoed what was in our hearts, but, in this day, that reflection just isn’t visible anymore. I can only hope that some kernel of emotion is shown through her eyes. That’s all we have left.
Sometimes, we feel like sacrificial lambs. Just because we are essential, finding ourselves doing things and going places that no one else wants to go, does not mean that we should be taken for granted. We are not just another piece of protective equipment that is disposable.
Nursing is hard. Caregiving is hard. Have our backs while we lead the charge into this nightmare no one could have imagined.
Check on your healthcare providers. Just because we are carrying the impossible load doesn’t mean it isn’t weighing hard upon us.