I’m a social person by nature. I love talking, interacting, and learning with and from others. Never in my career as a nurse did I think that I wouldn’t be able to be social.
COVID-19 has impacted all of our lives; some might be out of work and stuck at home, others might be struggling to make ends meet and worrying about not being able to put food on their tables to feed their families. Me? Well, I’m a nurse, so I’m on the frontline. I work at a Level 1 trauma academic hospital in Boston, and we are always booming. Patient after patient, code after code, we see and treat thousands of patients each week. Now, with COVID-19, we have even more patients that are not only presenting to our facility, but that are more critically ill.
One of my passions is improving the patient experience. I focus my efforts on strengthening the patient-provider partnership and laying down a foundation of trust so that I can collaborate with my patients and allow them a means to have input in their plans of care. I spend time by the bedside, holding my patients’ hands, conversing about their pasts, and learning from them every step of the way. I care, I truly do.
But now, I can’t keep my line of communication open with my patients. Our interactions end the minute I leave their rooms and pull their doors shut. I don’t like knowing patients are closed off; I don’t want them thinking and feeling as if they are alone. COVID-19 patients need to be placed in isolation rooms, but that doesn’t mean that I want them to feel socially isolated. These patients are already riddled with fatigue and general malaise, but now I feel like I’m leaving them helpless and hopeless. And that’s exactly how I’m feeling, too.
The mental and emotional toll that COVID-19 is imposing on healthcare professionals is unreal, and truly unprecedented. I would hope that nurses and doctors entered the profession with the desire to help, care, and treat. I mean, that’s definitely why I chose nursing as a career. But now this virus is wedging itself between my patients and me – and it’s by far the biggest barrier I have ever faced.
I cry almost every day and night thinking about how I wish I could have done more, how I wish I just could have been more present and caring. But I can’t, and it’s not by choice, but rather because of the brutally crucial precautions to keep myself, my hospital community, and the community at large safe and healthy.
I guess the point I’m trying to make with my endless rambling is that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to feel, whichever end of the spectrum those feelings may land. We are all in this together, and the more people know and understand this, the less alone we should feel. And the feeling of not being alone is the most important right now.