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Are you exhausted?

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Specializes in ED, ICU, PSYCH, PP, CEN. Has 18 years experience.

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I've been working Covid ICU since the pandemic began. At first it was terrifying, but we all got somewhat used to it. Some staff caught it, but everyone recovered well.  We've seen more people die this year than in 20 years of nursing.  It is so tiring to gown up every time you have to go in the room. The patients are all much sicker than we normally have.

I feel like I have dealt with the situation pretty well, but it's come to my attention that I am absolutely exhausted all the time, even though our Covid pt census is wayyyy down. I'm tired all the time and just don't have any energy. Is this normal? Am I just experiencing exhaustion from all the months of intense anxiety and extra work? Normally I am very fit and active.

Wondering if anyone else is experiencing this.

Merrie82, RN

Specializes in Medical Surgical.

I worked on a Covid Unit as a CNA from last march through this December. It is exhausting! Mentally, physically, and emotionally. Gowning up and papring up for every patient interaction. Spending an hour at least in a room to try to get all the care clustered as much as we can because of the extra time it takes to get ready to enter a room. Seeing so many patients die.

I had one patient right at Christmas time that was on the unit, and he was dying. His wife of over 40 years was in the hospice section of their care facility, and she was dying too. I helped a zoom video call happen, and held the tablet for my patient while he tried to talk to his wife. He promised her he was coming home, and she should wait for him. They were both so ill they could barely keep their eyes open, and kept dozing off during the call. I went home that night and I just couldn't get that call out of my head, or let go of that patient and his wife. My husband drove me around in the car and let me talk to him about it and cry, and then we spent about 2 hours driving and looking at people's Christmas decorations around town. IT IS EXHAUSTING! And you are totally normal to feel this way. Can you take any time off? Like maybe a couple of weeks back to back. Sometimes we have to give ourselves a break, before WE break. Or maybe if your hospital can use you in a different unit for a while? Since the covid unit is slowing down? Might be good to see some non-covid patients, and maybe a little less death. I wish I had better answers, but know that you are not alone.🖤

gonzo1, ASN, RN

Specializes in ED, ICU, PSYCH, PP, CEN. Has 18 years experience.

Thank you for your input.  I feel for you, as a CNA you truly work harder than I do.  We have seen so much sadness this last year.  

We are finally able to take vacation time, so I have about 12 days off in April and then again in June.  It just feels so weird to be so totally exhausted.  

LibraNurse27, BSN, RN

Specializes in Community Health, Med/Surg, ICU Stepdown. Has 8 years experience.

I didn't know how exhausted I was until I got a new job. I was in an ICU Stepdown covid unit for 10 months, and agree with everything you said. Our Stepdown patients were pretty much ICU pts because ICU was full, donning and doffing constantly, trying to cluster care but being pulled from one covid room to another for emergencies. Being asked to do everyone's job like clean rooms, change sharps containers, do RT job.

Seeing the inequities in who got covid and how, and seeing so much death. People not be able to be with their loved ones while they passed away, being the last person with someone while they died, holding their hand while family watched on Zoom. I was crying after work and eventually felt numb, didn't do much except sit on the couch  after work and on days off. I think what you are experiencing is normal and that many nurses may suffer from some level of PTSD after working with acute covid pts. I feel SO much better now that I'm away from it, but guilty that I left before it was truly over. I did work through the worst of the surges at least, can still brag to my grandkids! LOL

I hope your vacation is very refreshing, and I think things are getting better slowly. But if it is really affecting your mental health and counseling doesn't help and it feels like it won't be temporary, I wouldn't fault you for looking for a new job. Your health matters most.

 

NurseLy, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med surg. Has 4 years experience.

Our unit has been a covid step down unit for a year now. (We just “celebrated” having made it one year since our first covid patient came through the door)

I could not agree more. We are all so mentally and physically exhausted. Even though overall our numbers are way down, our unit remains the covid cohort unit so every single patient we have is still covid. 
 

Even with (God willing) the worst of it behind us, within the last week we sent two patients UNDER 35 years old to the ICU and they both ended up vented and on ECMO before end of shift. Seeing this much sadness and tragedy in the past year is bound to start wearing anyone down. 

So I have nothing helpful to add, no advice. Simply responding to say I relate to everything you said and yes that’s normal. I have loved my unit and my team, but I have started considering applying for new jobs. My mental health is suffering and it is trickling into my home life. We are a small unit and the few nurses on our floor have been run ragged with no end in site. No alternating staff through, no breaks, nothing. I haven’t started job searching yet but it crosses my mind daily. We make our voices heard about how we are feeling but it continues to fall on deaf ears..... 

JBMmom, MSN

Specializes in Long term care; med-surg; critical care. Has 9 years experience.

You're definitely not alone. I'm in the COVID ICU and this week, for the first time since last March we have NO COVID patients!! The deaths over this past year have been heart-wrenching. From COVID patients to patients with other conditions that didn't seek timely treatment because of COVID, people have been so sick. I feel for all the families that lost loved ones and will have emotional fallout for years because they couldn't be with their loved ones at the end of their lives. There are a few patient deaths, and their course of treatment before they died, that I still think about regularly. Some of them were really tough. A 49 year old grandma who coded on Christmas, a man who celebrated his wedding anniversary on the vent with me holding the phone so his wife could say goodnight, hearing people's last words before we intubated them knowing they may never speak to another human being again (and none of them did), a young mom who was supposed to go home after recovering from COVID, but died of a retroperitoneal bleed from the lovenox therapy, holding the hands of so many patients as they passed, and doing compressions that we all knew were completely futile, ugh. 

I do hope you will find some relief soon! I know I was working 50+ hours almost every week and just last week I had my first stretch of five nights off in over a year. It was awesome! I definitely just needed a recharge and I got it. I didn't even realize how heavily some stuff was weighing on me, but spending some time out in the sunshine doing yardwork and relaxing totally made me feel better. I'm cutting back on the extra hours now to enjoy spending time with my kids, since my oldest heads off to college in August. 

I'm optimistic that the second wave (which was worse than the first here), is coming to an end. I hope we don't see a third. My state has done quite well with vaccinating and we're scheduled to start ages 16+ in just a few weeks. I hope for all of us, the worst has come and gone. We got through it, we will be stronger in many ways, and we have shown that we can get through whatever comes our way as we flex our knowledge, our skills and our souls to meet the needs of our patients. I hope you're feeling better soon, wish you all the best. 

gonzo1, ASN, RN

Specializes in ED, ICU, PSYCH, PP, CEN. Has 18 years experience.

Thanks to everyone for helping me know I'm not alone and am having normal feelings after such a huge and sad work change for the last year.  I was beginning to think there was something horribly wrong with me.  

Fortunately I work in a hospital that is very responsive to our concerns, but of course, there just wasn't time for breaks etc during this time.  I am super happy where I work and would not want to go anywhere else.  I'll most likely be retiring in 2-3 years as I am over 65.

My heart goes out to all of you who didn't feel supported by your hospital.  I can't imagine how awful that would be.  It would definitely make the whole thing way worse for you.

Hopefully things will be winding down soon.

 

speedynurse, ADN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in ER, Pre-Op, PACU.

When I left the ER during COVID, I had no idea how wiped out I was. 6 months later in surgical services, I am still exhausted but not as much as I was then. I don’t think we always realize how long it takes our bodies to re-bound from the physical, mental, and emotional toll of our jobs.....especially during covid times. 
 

Don’t hesitate to take a break and go to another unit for a year or two to just re-charge. I do miss parts of the ER, but I know I need a good long time away before going back because Covid was so exhausting for me. 

LibraNurse27, BSN, RN

Specializes in Community Health, Med/Surg, ICU Stepdown. Has 8 years experience.

3 hours ago, speedynurse said:

When I left the ER during COVID, I had no idea how wiped out I was. 6 months later in surgical services, I am still exhausted but not as much as I was then. I don’t think we always realize how long it takes our bodies to re-bound from the physical, mental, and emotional toll of our jobs.....especially during covid times. 
 

Don’t hesitate to take a break and go to another unit for a year or two to just re-charge. I do miss parts of the ER, but I know I need a good long time away before going back because Covid was so exhausting for me. 

I also moved to surgical services (outpatient PACU.) I'm slowly feeling better, but I often think of my covid patients and their families in quiet moments like driving/hiking. Today I was in SF hiking a cliffside that looks down at the Pacific Ocean and for some reason I looked at the sky and thought of my covid pts who had passed. Maybe because it's a beautiful/peaceful place and I hope that's where they are now.

I'm not particularly religious but I believe in heaven. Most of my covid pts were undocumented people from Mexico and Central America who left life and death situations in their countries. They received no government assistance during covid and had to go to high risk jobs as they lacked higher education and couldn't work from home. Many tried their best to follow scientific guidelines but still got sick and died. I think about how their lives on earth were so challenging but they often talked to us about their faith and their gratitude. I really hope they are in a better place, as they say. Also I will not watch any medical shows about covid, makes me cry.

Yes but I shouldn't be. I work in a nursing home and we had Covid-19. As a RN there I test for Covid-19 and pass meds. The night before our major outbreak I passed meds to 45 patients because the LPN came to me and told me she thought she was contaminated. Weird drops in oxygen and unexplained pna and respiratory issues. I ordered her to not pass meds on a unit and took over that unit to protect the non exposed patients. We had about a month of covid-19. I worked the covid-19 unit and am so tired. After everyone,but those that passed, recovered and we all got a vaccine I asked for a vacation. Never got it or anything else not even a ty. I work 3 shifts there and won't pick up there. I am tired. I still test staff and residents....I don't know mourning the few we lost...

Edited by Cmanursestudenta