These words aren’t mine, but they are too powerful not to share.
This was sent to me by a nurse. I’m keeping this person’s identity anonymous, but you can imagine it’s a sentiment that many in the medical field share.
To the nursing assistant who has taken their hands off the chest of a twenty-something year old- the only risk factor was asthma.
To the providers, in awe of their patient, a 72-year-old, 77-year-old, 80-year-old, otherwise healthy, elderly adult, who changed their directives to DNI- to ‘save’ a ventilator for someone with more life to live.
To the nurse who quietly, respectfully, and professionally, begged that patient not to be a martyr because your mammaw, your dad, your aunt, is radiating from their eyes.
To you- the immunocompromised, feeling guilty that you’re not shoulder-to-shoulder with your peers.
To the provider who’s very pregnant, contemplating early FMLA, overwhelmed with concern for your child.
To the therapist tasked with the bag valve mask, focused on ventilating inside a bubble, praying you don’t slip and expose your colleagues to the unknown.
To the nurse, who was asked to remove their own PPE, because it wasn’t provided by their facility, yet upper-level providers can wear anything they bring.
To the provider sleeping in a tent, hotel, camper, on-call room, basement, garage, in an effort to minimize your family’s exposure.
To the physician questioning their modern oath, to serve humanity, to maintain the health of their patient as the first consideration, but what about the health of the 8 other staff members following your directive?
To the brand-new nurse, still in their first year, wondering why they had to write the papers about ANA Code of Ethics. Why did they spend so much time learning about ethics, and not learning about pandemics and mass crises? Triaging was only a 4-minute excerpt in lecture.
To the provider that was supposed to get married next month but is notifying guests that the wedding is postponed.
To the nurse that pushed sedation and paralytics into the veins of your favorite physician, as another provider slid a laryngoscope down their airway. Only after their airway was verified and secured did you allow the tears to fall. Was it Thursday that he slapped you on the shoulder, asking ‘if you brought him any coffee’?
To the you who is divorced, or a single-parent, or quarantining yourselves and had to send your kids to a relative or ex-spouses’ home. Is that enough to keep them safe? How long will this last?
To all of us, with skin breakdown, blisters, and friction burns, our masks rub our ears and nose and cheekbones until they’re raw, but hey- we did get a new mask today. Even if we had to wear the same contaminated one, all day long.
To all of us, showing up for your 4th or 5th or 9th or 21st shift in a row, a little less energized, a little more run down, but you pop those Vitamin C tabs, probiotics, caffeine, and multi-V like it’s your lifeline.
To the providers, understanding graphs, data, trends, who know what the next weeks hold, but can’t speak up about lack of PPE due to fear of retaliation from their facility.
To the providers in Massachusetts, whose hospital should be protecting them, but say they contracted COVID from their (shutdown) communities, not from their exposures with limited/overused PPE. The ones in NY, transporting their deceased to a refrigerated semi-truck, because the morgue is full. The ones in nursing, veterans, and long-term care homes acutely aware of what 1 single infection would mean to their entire building.
To those who’ve had to FaceTime or WhatsApp their patients loved one. We would normally never make a call from a personal phone. That’s irrelevant now. I hope you never have to internally argue with yourself about when is the appropriate time to hang up.
To the nurses on a travel assignment, far from their home base, family, work family, trudging into work each day with no nurse-mom to baby you. No nurse-dad to explain what that lab value really means.
To you- the provider, the desk clerk, the cashier, who was exposed, but denied testing. The you who found out your patient was positive through word of mouth, days after. No lab, no supervisor, called.
To the you sitting at home- my sweet best friend, COVID +, infected by a patient when you had no PPE. We can’t be there for you. None of us can. My prayer is that you never wake up in the night sweating or gasping for breath. May you stay the course as one of the ‘mild’ cases.
To the nurse, internally panicked but externally collected, when your mid-level PA says ‘Can you set up a ventilator? Respiratory is busy.’ And your soul sings praises to your preceptor that didn’t skip a thing.
To the intensivist- when your COVID+ patient starts showing signs of renal failure, cardiac arrhythmias, sepsis, and your instinct is to consult everyone, but should you? How many more teams should you really expose…
To the person who wore CLEAN scrubs to target- because you needed Excedrin before your shift. People glared. Hateful and even worse- fearful of you.
To the provider who opens a CT image and their stomach churns when they see white patches in the right lower lobe. What radiologists call ground glass opacities, filled in air spaces, this is what ultimately causes the shortness of breath and low oxygen levels.
The same provider, stomach still knotted, notifies the primary nurse, because they know no one wore PPE… the patient had presented with nausea, fatigue, dysentery- no classic signs of COVID.
To the nurse, getting a UTI- you never have time to pee, simultaneously dehydrated- you never have time to drink, hypoglycemic- never have time to eat. Thank God this patient is already lined. You’re shaking too much to start an IV. What about Maggie? She’s diabetic and assigned to beds far away from you… did she eat? Maybe you should make her eat. Wait, someone is desaturating. Check on Maggie on later.
To the nurse who wakes up to news that a second colleague has now passed away but goes to work and listens to management and hospital administration say, ‘the CDC’s guidelines are being followed.’
To the respiratory therapist that fell ill, you can’t breathe, but you anxiously watch your pulse oximetry, knowing that your next step is a vent- because you will be denied the very treatment you’ve given hundreds of patients. No nebulizers, no CPAP/biPAP, no high flow cannulas.
To the surgeon and the PA showing up at an ICU or an ER and working as a resource to the bedside nurses. To the nurse anesthetist, taking a RN travel job back at the bedside- because elective surgeries are halted and it’s in your blood to contribute somehow. To the recently retired, coming back into the workforce to help… you barely had a break!
To the provider tasked with weaning the vent, or titrating meds, or even calling time of death on their colleague.
To the world who formerly used the phrase ‘just a nurse’ but had no idea what nursing really meant. The world that gets frustrated when it takes too long to bring you pain medicine or more juice.
To the you, that’s mentally drained, physically depleted, but still showing up for your shift. Maybe today your faith isn’t stronger than your fear, maybe today you feel fragile. Today you cried in the shower, on the side of the road, in the hospital parking garage. Your face broke when you looked at the last picture you took of your sleeping child and again when you hung up as your patients family said good-bye.
We don’t see any of that…
Here, you’re composed and you’re collected, you lead, and you follow. We see you pinch the bridge of your mask, dictate orders, push drugs, attach pads, read studies, set up vents, clamp ET tubes, direct patient flow, ration supplies, follow your gut instinct. Your strength and bravery are seeping from your pores. Here’s to each of you.💚