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Covid-19: The Guilt of the Work From Home Nurse

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How Covid 19 is affecting my life.

Specializes in case management. Has 9 years experience.

Are you feeling guilty, too?

Covid-19: The Guilt of the Work From Home Nurse

Each day I wake up for another day the same as yesterday

I make my coffee and turn on my computer, browsing my emails before anything else.

For the last several weeks, there are constantly new updates surrounding Covid-19.

New training guidelines, new questions to discuss with patients, changes from the CDC and updates regarding medication dispensing.

Help for the fight

There are also constant requests from state governors, healthcare agencies and boards of nursing requesting additional healthcare personnel to help fight this virus.

Requesting nurses to come out of retirement. Waiving reinstatement fees and extending licensure renewals. They are almost begging.

My heart races and my stomach drops – I feel guilty

My social media feeds are flooded with pictures and videos of nurses crying, quitting their jobs due to fear, risking their lives working without proper PPE, or simply braving the virus and taking a risk because of their oath of caring for others cannot be shaken.

Should I be out there?

I stepped away from the bedside in 2018. I was fortunate to find a position as a Case Manager with the added benefit of working from home. I am young and do not have a family I am supporting or worried about spreading the virus to. I should be out there. In fact, I did reach out to my employer about the possibility of taking leave to help on the frontlines, but this was not granted. I would be lying if part of me wasn’t a tiny bit relieved.

I believe that most nurses, healthcare professionals in general, have a sense of needing to help. If you ask a nurse why they chose their profession, that is likely the answer you will receive. We seem to naturally possess traits of compassion, selflessness, and empathy. We are also (usually) stellar at teamwork and critical thinking. Unfortunately, the traits of a nurse can be detrimental. To ourselves. We tend to put the oxygen mask on someone else before ourselves, metaphorically speaking. We do not often make ourselves a priority. I partly blame our healthcare environments for this. They have conditioned us to accept more responsibility with less support. To be a “team player.” To pick up extra shifts when we are exhausted. To work when we are unwell ourselves. And now, nurses are being exposed to a deadly virus and are not being provided basic PPE, yet they are expected to accept these conditions without complaint.

There is not a soul that does not support our frontline nurses during this time. Truthfully, I do not feel there is enough being done to support them (free donuts and shoes is barely a band-aid) but that is an article in itself…

I am grateful and I am necessary

At the end of the day I am grateful I do not have to make the decisions our frontline nurses do. I must remind myself that the work I do is also helpful and necessary. That I am still supporting my patients in a different manner by educating them, ensuring they have necessary supplies and medications and that they are staying home, in turn hopefully making a small dent in lessening the burden of hospitals and our brave nurses.

I hope that nurses are feeling confident enough in their WORTH to make the decisions that are right for them and their families. To know that their fear is valid and if they are scared or feeling unsupported that they need to use their voices. Remember that nursing is so vast with so many opportunities, and if your employer does not value you in a crisis, they do not deserve you.

Lastly

I want our frontline nurses to know that we stand with them in solidarity. We are crying and praying along with them. We admire their sacrifice and will never judge whatever tough decisions they may make during this time.

maybug has 8 years of experience as an ADN, BSN, RN and specializes in Case Management.

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35 Comment(s)

Curious1alwys, BSN, RN

Has 9 years experience.

That's like the guilt you feel when you've left bedside for some time and you feel like you miss it. It's not real. 🤣😏

maybug, ADN, BSN, RN

Specializes in case management. Has 9 years experience.

15 minutes ago, Curious1alwys said:

That's like the guilt you feel when you've left bedside for some time and you feel like you miss it. It's not real. 🤣😏

Haha, I definitely don't miss bedside nursing.

RN0599, BSN, MSN

Specializes in Psych, Med-surg. Has 22 years experience.

I understand your feelings of guilt. I have them myself from time to time. I had been working per diem in home health when the coronavirus hit the US. I also live with my elderly mother who has history of respiratory problems. At her insistance, I stepped away from my job and have been isolating at home with my mother. I would feel just horrible if I brought this devastating virus home to my her! I have never caught anything in the past from a patient, nor brought any diseases home in 20 years of being a nurse in numerous healthcare facilities. It is just not worth the risk right now! I'm keeping up with the other elderly residents in our condo community, making masks, and organizing online grocery deliveries. I may not be on the frontlines with all the nurses and doctors, but I'm doing my part on the homefront! Stay safe everyone!

sirI, MSN, APRN, NP

Specializes in Education, FP, LNC, Forensics, ED, OB. Has 30 years experience.

13 minutes ago, RN0599 said:

I'm keeping up with the other elderly residents in our condo community, making masks, and organizing online grocery deliveries. I may not be on the frontlines with all the nurses and doctors, but I'm doing my part on the homefront! Stay safe everyone!

Bless you, @RN0599 🙂

Yes! I also work from home in case management. I said this exact thing to my husband yesterday. I am torn between the safety of my remote position and going back to acute care to help out.

Gabriela Flores, ADN

Specializes in MedSurg/Peds/School Nursing. Has 5 years experience.

My exact thoughts everyday that I wake up to the news and the videos of nurses suffering. I stepped back from hospital nursing In the Med surg Pediatrics unit in 2018 after 2 years and went into neurology as an infusion nurse at an office. Left that in 2019 to become a School Nurse for 2 Middle schools. I have little ones and they are my priority and the time I get with them by working at the school is great. But ever since I left the hospital I don’t feel like a “ real” nurse. More than ever right now I feel like a “ lazy” nurse, my schools are closed down so I am home with my kids. I am constantly thinking “ is it worth going for a few weeks to help out?” “ is it worth knowing I may give this virus to my 3 year old who has severe asthma and is constantly getting sick?” No. It isn’t. It is still hard to make myself feel better about not being there with all my nursing friends fighting this pandemic head on. And I am, quite frankly, embarrassed sometimes to say I am a school nurse :/. School nursing is another world of its own and it is extremely overwhelming sometimes . I am grateful that I don’t have to risk my families health by working at the hospital but the guilt can sometimes be more :/

maybug, ADN, BSN, RN

Specializes in case management. Has 9 years experience.

4 hours ago, RN0599 said:

I understand your feelings of guilt. I have them myself from time to time. I had been working per diem in home health when the coronavirus hit the US. I also live with my elderly mother who has history of respiratory problems. At her insistance, I stepped away from my job and have been isolating at home with my mother. I would feel just horrible if I brought this devastating virus home to my her! I have never caught anything in the past from a patient, nor brought any diseases home in 20 years of being a nurse in numerous healthcare facilities. It is just not worth the risk right now! I'm keeping up with the other elderly residents in our condo community, making masks, and organizing online grocery deliveries. I may not be on the frontlines with all the nurses and doctors, but I'm doing my part on the homefront! Stay safe everyone!

Anyone who makes a tough decision right now to make themselves and their family a priority is making the right decision, IMO.

Thank you for making a difference in your community!!

maybug, ADN, BSN, RN

Specializes in case management. Has 9 years experience.

3 hours ago, melaniekrn97 said:

Yes! I also work from home in case management. I said this exact thing to my husband yesterday. I am torn between the safety of my remote position and going back to acute care to help out.

The money also makes it oh so tempting... I have to remind myself I am so blessed that I am not in a position to contract this disease (at least very unlikely compared to working 1:1 with infected patients). How would we feel if we became sick, potentially losing our lives or infecting those we love?

maybug, ADN, BSN, RN

Specializes in case management. Has 9 years experience.

2 hours ago, Gabriela Flores said:

But ever since I left the hospital I don’t feel like a “ real” nurse. More than ever right now I feel like a “ lazy” nurse, my schools are closed down so I am home with my kids. I am constantly thinking “ is it worth going for a few weeks to help out?” “ is it worth knowing I may give this virus to my 3 year old who has severe asthma and is constantly getting sick?” No. It isn’t. It is still hard to make myself feel better about not being there with all my nursing friends fighting this pandemic head on. And I am, quite frankly, embarrassed sometimes to say I am a school nurse :/. School nursing is another world of its own and it is extremely overwhelming sometimes . I am grateful that I don’t have to risk my families health by working at the hospital but the guilt can sometimes be more 😕

You are making the right choice. Our own lives and our families are just as precious as those we serve. I hope you are able to overcome your feelings of embarrassment and not feeling like a "real nurse." As long as you are in a specialty and environment you love, that is all that matters. I'm assuming you left those others roles for a reason. Don't forget those reasons. We all have to do what's best for ourselves, and hospital nursing is not for everyone. Some nurses thrive on the adrenaline and assessments/interventions of acute care and some of us (me) work better behind the scenes. We are so lucky that our profession offers so many opportunities!

I feel your guilt myself, so much. I’ve been in NP school and working per diem at a surgery center, which has since stopped doing cases so beyond finishing school for the semester, I’m out of luck with work as I have been an OR nurse for the last 6 years.

anewsns

Specializes in Neurosciences, stepdown, acute rehab, LTC. Has 8 years experience.

I think about nurses who are away from the line of fire all the time. If you came to the front lines, we would need another nurse to take your position. So unless you really want to go back to bedside, its not totally necessary as you would still be leaving an open and necessary position for another nurse

I'm feeling guilty. I'm in a different situation. I left a new grad program after 6 months when I was offered a job in an ambulatory surgery center. I found my calling there for sure. Well, once the govenor of my state put the kibosh on elective surgeries, there went my job. Temporarily, at least. I can do without working, as my husband is the breadwinner; however, I feel compelled to go and help out. The unit I left at the hospital (it was a med/surg position) has openings and they are eager to hire. My issue is, because I left a new grad position, I believe I burnt a bridge. I'm not sure entirely, as there was no real drama surrounding it. It's just that I was still in the program and I jumped ship for the job I really wanted. In any case, I've been having lots of inner dialogue with myself and I want to reach out to my old manager and ask if I could come and help. I don't know what to do. My husband works from home normally and my teenager is now home too doing virtual school. I don't want to bring anything home to them. Am I crazy for wanting to go back? Maybe so. Anyone else feeling like this?

jena5111, ASN, RN

Specializes in Tele, Interventional Pain Management, OR. Has 6 years experience.

As a neurosurgery clinic nurse, I (intermittently) feel that same guilt for not being on the front lines. I don't delude myself for one second that my currently work-from-home butt, who sees a few in-person fresh post-ops one day weekly in clinic for suture/staple removal, is a hero nurse.

And yet, the multiple patients I talk to from home daily, on the phone or through the electronic portal, need my nursing care. Although elective neurosurgery cases at my affiliated hospital have been canceled/postponed for weeks, we still regularly post urgent/emergent cases as we are a Level II trauma center. Even COVID-19 can't keep people from having strokes, falling and developing subdural hematomas, sustaining spinal fractures in accidents, etc. When patients and their families find themselves on the other side of neurosurgery, they often need a nurse to guide them through what comes next. I am proud to provide that support.

I left acute care nearly 4 years ago after becoming pregnant with my son. I sought out ambulatory care to reduce risk to my child since I was an older first-time mom. Along the way, I think I found my niche in ambulatory care. My point is that ALL nurses have value. We are all REAL nurses.

I have everything I need to do my job safely. I am fortunate. Yes, I may be adjusting to work from home (WFH) with a three-year-old used to full-time school whose school has been closed for a month. At least I get to be with my son.

My fellow nurse colleagues actually on the COVID-19 frontlines do not have what they need. They did not "sign up for this". These nurses signed up to care for patients assuming they had everything they needed to do their jobs safely. Some of them have to quarantine away from their families or send their children away to keep them safe.

I am fortunate.

maybug, ADN, BSN, RN

Specializes in case management. Has 9 years experience.

15 hours ago, anewsns said:

I think about nurses who are away from the line of fire all the time. If you came to the front lines, we would need another nurse to take your position. So unless you really want to go back to bedside, its not totally necessary as you would still be leaving an open and necessary position for another nurse

Great point. Thank you for that.

Also, I think about for those of us that have retired/been away from the bedside for awhile, how much support we'd need to get even partially up to speed?

PCU_RN9, MSN

Specializes in Health insurance nursing/ Cardiac nursing.

On 4/9/2020 at 10:05 AM, Curious1alwys said:

That's like the guilt you feel when you've left bedside for some time and you feel like you miss it. It's not real. 🤣😏

Haha! Agreed. I’ve been away from the bedside for several years. I miss co workers but I love working from home!

Info_RN, BSN

Specializes in Operating Room/Informatics. Has 10 years experience.

I found myself coming to this site tonight hoping to find an article just like this one. I left bedside nursing 4 years ago to become an informatics nurse where I get to work from home everyday in my pjs. Ever since the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in my state, I have felt guilty on a daily basis for not working on the frontlines. At the same time, I am also relieved that I’m not on the frontlines, which in turn makes me feel guilty again. It’s a constant internal struggle in my head. Do I leave my current position and volunteer to go back to the bedside, where I would, admittedly, be in way over my head. Or do I keep my current job where I can stay safe at home, when so many of my fellow nurses don’t have that option. Deep down, I know the work I do is helping other nurses who actually are on the frontlines. I just wanted to thank you for writing this article and expressing the same sentiment that so many of us are feeling. And thank you to the others who responded for reminding me that we don’t have to be on the frontlines to make a difference during this pandemic.