Being a healthcare worker is my superpower, something that I am good at and advocate tirelessly for my nursing profession, and for those that help us with our jobs. With the overpowering emotions that I was feeling from the words being announced that “COVID-19 is here in the States” many emotions began, starting with denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then acceptance. Then it came quickly came to me, these are the stages of grief, and the thoughts of massive loss that we will encounter over the next few months wasn’t the nightmare on TV in another land, it was coming right for us.
For me, the denial was thinking the virus was only staying in China. Though it was terrible, people were probably making this out to be a big-nothing deal as usual. Something we do so well as a healthcare worker, we can handle anything, especially with our protective equipment! As the viral wave hit Europe, it was inevitable. It was coming right for us. Living in Orlando, Florida, we have tourists coming here from all over and knew that was spreading right to us. Calmly preparing, getting my “hurricane” supplies at the beginning of March, the news hit a couple of days later…it was here.
Taking it all in, seeing my fellow healthcare workers and first responders on a typical day, knowing how what was about to happen was going to change our country forever. Independence running fiercely through our veins, Americans will not back down. This can either impede an effort or cripple us. It was becoming more noticeable, the influx of people rushing into the ED for minimal reasons, the panic was starting to set in, for some, not so much as the younger folks as infallible as they are. It was almost like time was standing still and seeing the future, trying to bargain it to be okay, that is was all hype. Just wash our hands, everything will be okay, and don’t forget to buy some toilet paper.
Not being a huge TV person, especially the news, I tuned into credible avenues of information and let that guide my decisions. Deeply depressed by knowing that nurses, all health professionals, and first responders are heading into the lion’s den without the protection that we all have seen staff wear in China, that we were about to have massive casualties alone just with frontline caregivers. How our pleas are loud yet not heard. Healthcare workers and first responders put their work clothes on and went after the fear that was ahead, knowing that this could be the last month of their life. Not having proper protection to care for patients was not what we signed up for, as a soldier would not be sent into battle without a weapon. This was not what they taught us in nursing school, as this is just a bad dream.
As we embark on this mission of selflessness, resulting in isolation to aid our communities, we must accept and not forget those that we have already lost and what is to come. Many of you reading this may or may not be nurses or even in the medical field, but know that the stages of grief, are necessary and we are not immune. It is okay, even for the bravest and stoic to grieve, that crying is not a weakness but a way to help release the emotional pain one is feeling. The next few months are going to be rough on all of us, that will change our mental well-being and even cause trauma to a varying degree. Whatever you do, know that these stages are natural and healthy, you must experience them to be resilient and grow.
You are not alone. Please check in with your healthcare worker friend or family member, even neighbor. They may need that friendly conversation. If they are a danger to themselves, please take them to the ED or call 911. If you or know a healthcare worker that is afraid, isolating, or needs to talk, please ask them to join our group for support, Nurses Against Violence Unite, we are open to all healthcare workers. Together we can make the difference. Nobody should feel left behind.