So, we’ve been on this COVID train for a couple weeks now here in Canada. One of the many questions that people often ask me because I am a nurse is “is this thing really serious”? And I guess it still surprises me… but what I have learned the past while is that there is definitely a spectrum- people who are panicking and stockpiling supplies, maybe going a bit overboard… and then there are the people who fail to understand the significance of how their choices affect others. I won’t get too much on my high horse about this (because I’ve talked about it before), but if you haven’t realized it yet- this isn’t about you. It’s not about YOU feeling sick, but for others. For the elderly population who will be hit hard , for all the people who you will infect while you’re asymptomatic (which is the first 4-6 days BEFORE you have symptoms by the way), and for the people putting their lives on the line to take care of you.
The thing that I think I’ve had the hardest time with is the constant negativity and negative energy that seems to be surrounding us in the universe. everyone’s negativity There is no doubt that this is just a situation that sucks. For everyone. No other way to put it. People who know me will also know that I am one of the first to say that organizations should be more proactive and be held accountable for their poor decisions (and yeah maybe we could all be better prepared) but at the end of the day, we’re here now and there is no changing it. Complaining isn’t going to change that, and just brings down everyone around you.
I know this will be an unpopular opinion but… we need to stop blaming others and work together to create solutions. For those of us on the front lines we cannot just “demand” PPE. The delivery wasn’t just forgotten this week- there is NO MORE. If we continue to utilize supplies as normal and do not ration supplies there will not be enough to get us through this thing. In NYC they estimated last week that there would only be enough for a few more days. We must support each other by NOT wasting supplies, by making safe choices for our colleagues and one another, and continuing to advocate for practical and realistic solutions.
Not to fault anyone’s well meaning but “demanding” more PPE from organizations is not enough nor is it helpful. Should we be better prepared? Yeah absolutely, but again we’re not. So we face the conditions we’re in now. Not one particular organization is solely to blame or is responsible. This is a pandemic people, come on. And honestly it’s time for us to better expend our energy finding ways to make this work and make it through this.It would be ideal if all staff could be masked for any possible/ potential exposure. But it is not feasible to do that. And although we are ALL scared please think about the implications of taking that PPE from someone who may really really need it. So for those of you reading this who will not likely be exposed to patients with COVID19- that might mean uncomfortable things like not having a mask to wear all the time. And at the end of the day, that is no different than being at home or out in the community. That does not put you at any higher risk of catching COVID.
That doesn’t mean we stop asking for solutions or advocating for us and our patients’ safety. This just means we take a step back to sometimes look at the tough decisions that people are having to make a bit more objectively, and have some kidness and patience for peoples’ misgivings. None of these decisions being made are easy, and none of them are being taken lightly by any person in any organization. Don’t forget that those people are humans too. And they are scared.
Being on the front line myself I absolutely know how scary this is. Not being sure if you will go into work and have enough PPE, what kind of patient(s) you’ll be assigned to care for, and ultimately if today is the day that you might be exposed to the virus that could kill you. To be completely honest, being a person who has already struggled with a multitude of health challenges, I am terrified. And yet we carry on- those of us on the front lines (nurses, doctors, RTs, grocery store workers, and the list of essential service workers that are often forgotten). I see you. We see you. Your dedication, your hard work and your kindness is not forgotten.
To the nurses who are quitting their jobs and refusing unsafe work- we stand with you. To the people who are making masks and doing other things to support staff- thank you for your kind hearts and actions. The thank you’s to all of us (especially medical professionals) in many ways such as providing discounts and goods to those working on the front lines are certainly appreciated. But I can tell you for a fact that any of us living this nightmare for real would much rather not receive any of them if it meant the thousands of people worldwide were still alive and well today and if it meant we hadn’t seen and experienced some of the things that we have (or are about to). This is not some glamorous “I’m a nurse respect those of us on the front lines” post, because anyone who is living this on the front lines knows that there is no glamour in that. We are certainly appreciative of everyone’s “thank yous”, kind gestures, and posts of acknowledgment, but it does not make up for the fact that we DID NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS. Plain and simple. None of us did. And as a nurse, I certainly signed up to care for others but not without the appropriate PPE.
Just another important note for those who may be on the front lines and lacking PPE- there is a fair bit of evidence going around that cloth masks may in fact increase your risk of exposure to COVID19- so although many people are offering to sew and provide masks for healthcare workers- it may in fact increase your exposure. Some literature that has also recently come out suggests that the reason young healthcare workers are getting COVID and getting so sick is because they are exposed to a higher viral load than the average person- so every chance you could be exposed it is really important to wear appropriate PPE even if you think “you have already had it and have been exposed”.
Take a look at this article which explains some of the risks of cloth masks: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/4/e006577
One last thing- please stop fear mongering. I’ve heard lots of stories from many people all over and one thing is consistent regardless of what area, unit, or organization you work at- we are all scared. To the unions who are fighting hard for all of us- thank you. But to support each other on the front lines we don’t all need to support this “us against them” mentality. We are all in this together. We should fight for appropriate and safe practices for staff- but in a respectful, mature and adult way. People are already scared enough we don’t need to promote or contribute to the hysteria. Most of us are educated smart professionals in our respective fields- and we know how to have respectful conversations while still getting the job we need to do done. Do something kind for someone today- I promise it will make you feel a whole lot better. Don’t forget to take a few minutes each day to recharge and take care of yourselves- you’ll need this strength in the weeks and months to come when this thing really hits us hard.
Stay safe and healthy everyone,