COVID-19 is the topic of conversation right now.
The United States & many countries around the world are on lock down. Businesses, schools, colleges, restaurants, stores have shut their doors &, if able, sent their employees home. There’s no toilet paper, hand sanitizer, or cleaning supplies to be found in stores. This virus has spread quickly & the media has been covering it non-stop. It’s all people are talking about on social media, as well as the impact this country-wide quarantine has had on the population.
I want to talk about a subsection of that population today: healthcare staff. We are the people that don’t get to go home during quarantine. We suit up & put ourselves directly in harms way to care for the sick in the face of the COVID – 19 pandemic. It looks noble & brave, but to be honest, it’s scary.
Sometimes, I don’t think people realize that people who work in healthcare are human. It feels like people view us as superhuman & outside of the population. We are expected to sacrifice our own health & possibly our families health, without feeling afraid or wanting to back out. When we express our apprehensions are fears, we can face shame, at times from our own colleagues. We aren’t allowed to be afraid, but I am.
Right now what we are facing is unknown, & that makes it scary.
Not only that, but for those of us who provide direct patient care we are facing a number of problems. The appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is running low across the U.S., to the point where the CDC is recommending if we were to run out of masks, we wear bandanna’s as a replacement. We worry about possibly carrying the virus from patient to patient. In addition to the pre-existing issues with staff shortages, staffing ratios & budget cuts, we now have to worry about what the workforce will look like when staff start to fall ill. An already strained workforce that is further strained will also, inevitably, lead to more deaths because of the lack of staff & resources.
In our personal lives, we worry about carrying the virus home to our children, grandparents, parents or contracting it ourselves. Some of us are immuno-compromised, some of us are older, some of us have chronically ill family members. It feels like we are placed in a position where we have to choose between our patients & the people we love most, our families. It sucks. Personally, I’ve sent my 5 year old, who I love to hug on, to stay with my mother, possibly until all of this blows over in order to protect both of them. Also, I am afraid to contract the virus, because even though I am relatively healthy, I don’t want to die & leave my son behind.
These are not only fears I share. All over social media, healthcare professionals & workers have been voicing their worries & the steps they’ve taken to protect their families. Reading the posts you can clearly sense the emotional strain, yet many of us are still showing up to work.
There is so much we don’t know about this yet, the data is changing every day as we learn more. As a nurse on the front lines, who has already been in contact with COVID-19 positive patients, I am telling you all we cannot do this alone. Healthcare workers & the people who do jobs outside to support us (manufacturers, truck drivers, etc.) cannot do this alone. We need you all to do your part. So I am begging & urging the general public, please follow the quarantine instructions. Stay in you’re homes, practice social distancing when you have to go out, only go out if absolutely necessary, & wash your hands frequently. I know quarantine feels like a huge inconvenience to so many, I know missing out on prom, spring break, vacations & work is awful, (& we can only hope the government will do the right thing by people & help them financially through this time), I know you don’t have a clue how to do the math your kids are learning now, but this social distancing is necessary to preventing what is unfortunately happening in Italy right now. It is necessary in preventing the deaths of others, & in preventing an already strained healthcare system from being overwhelmed & brought to its knees.
Please, please do you’re part to help us all get through this.