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How Has Covid Affected Your Job as a Nurse?

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The Covid pandemic affected nursing like no other virus in our recent history. My nursing career took a different path this past year due to the virus. How has it affected your job?

Specializes in Health Writer, School Nurse, Nurse Practitioner. Has 18 years experience.

How Has Covid Affected Your Job as a Nurse?

How Has Covid Affected Your Job as a Nurse?

Hopefully, with the worst of COVID behind us, nurses traumatized by the havoc and devastation of the pandemic can start to debrief and heal.  For many nurses, COVID brought double hardship.  Dealing with all the changes that occurred to our everyday lives and the fear or trial of getting coronavirus was enough to make anyone uptight and anxious.  Pile on the duties of a nurse dealing with an unknown, deadly virus in an ever-changing and exhausting medical environment, and it is a wonder that we nurses survived the unprecedented situation.

As a nurse writer, along with working on a COVID wing during the first half of the pandemic, my peaceful place during this tumultuous time was to document my COVID experiences through journaling.  After all, we were living in historical times, and capturing actual life events as they happened made sense to me and helped me keep it all in perspective.  Despite my writing, I could barely keep my life together due to developing a chronic painful autoimmune disease and nursing my father through the end stages of his cancer. 

But then we all had problems this past year, didn’t we?  Trying to figure out how to care for our children who were being schooled at home, having senior loved ones confined in nursing homes with no visitation privileges, and the inability to visit family and friends was difficult at best.  In addition, for some, the loss of income and climbing the walls inside our quarantined homes was not easy.

During the debut of the pandemic, I was employed as a float school nurse at a large private boarding school for children ages 4-18.  These children primarily came from challenging homes, with some being in foster care placement at the school.  As a float nurse at this unique school, I rotated through the elementary and 2 secondary school health clinics and occasionally worked in the triage area.  Since the children lived there year-round, the campus also included a 3-wing inpatient hospital for illness, surgery, and psychiatric issues when needed for the students.  As a school nurse, I worked pretty regular 8 to 4 hours in the clinics except for my mandatory every 3-week required weekend shift at the hospital.

When the schools closed down due to the pandemic, our students remained on campus since, for many, it was their home.  All school-based nurses needed to be flexible to cover new shifts and step away from the schools to staff the new COVID wing established to house those in quarantine or suffering from the coronavirus.  For me, this translated into being a hospital nurse working all 3 shifts and extra weekends.  At this time, I was in my 50’s and had not done hospital shift work for quite some time.  Struggling with physical stiffness and pain and attending to my father added to my struggle.

As the nurses who worked during the pandemic know, policies changed daily to keep up with the newest CDC guidelines, and nurse frustration was at an all-time high.  The most current procedures needed to be developed, and new skills quickly learned.  Communication was disappointing at best during this time, and tempers were thin.  At our little hospital, we needed to swiftly adapt our psychiatric wing to a COVID unit, establishing negative pressure rooms.  We also needed to add door alarms for the patient rooms as the youngest children would not stay in their rooms while in isolation.  My heart went out to these little ones who did not understand why they were in quarters all by themselves, with only nurses visiting them hourly wearing space suit-like isolation gear. 

Being one of the newer nurses, I was assigned primarily to the COVID wing.  I loved it there as I did not feel like the “new” nurse anymore as we all were navigating the particulars of this novel virus for the first time.  I helped to establish the isolation protocol and order the supplies needed for the newly designated COVID rooms.  Since the unit had to be set up at a moment’s notice, I struggled for the first few weeks with limited supplies. I had the cumbersome but necessary task of cleaning and disinfecting much of the equipment after each use as we had to share blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, and thermometers between rooms. 

Working with children is different than adults as the younger ones would not wait for me to come to their rooms for my rounds for medication, treatments, and assessment.  Instead, they would hit the call bell repeatedly with problems such as their computer was not working or they did not understand how to work the television.  After a shift of repeatedly doffing and donning isolation gear and cleaning supplies between patients, I was exhausted.  However, I empathized with these young patients and inserted my grandsons into the scenario for perspective.  I knew that these children needed all of the love and attention that I could give during a stressful hospitalization, so I gave it my all.

When Summer came around, my rheumatic condition had progressed, and my father did not have much time left, and my family needed me more.  I took a leave of absence from work.  Although I was grateful that I had the opportunity to spend time with my father during his last few weeks, I felt like I was abandoning ship in the midst of the storm, leaving my fellow nurses to the elements.

Once I began to feel a little better and healed somewhat from my father’s death, I decided to support my fellow nurses in a unique fashion.  I established a BLOG called “Nurses Need Care Too” to inspire and show my appreciation for my fellow nurses.  If I could not physically help out the cause, I would bolster nurses through my writing.

When I look back on where I was 1 year ago to now, my life and nursing career have changed a lot due to COVID.  I would love to hear YOUR stories about how COVID has changed your job as a nurse.  I am sure there are inspiring as well as tragic stories from so many of you.  (If you want to learn more about the Nurses Need Care Too BLOG, go to http://nursedonnareese.com/blogs/nurses-need-care-too).

I want to thank all of the nurses on the front lines during the pandemic.  You truly are HEROES!!

Donna Reese is a freelance nurse health content writer with 37 years nursing experience. She has worked as a Family Nurse Practitioner in her local community clinic, as a school nurse, and in home health and rehabilitation, along with hospital nursing. She utilizes her life experiences to write from the heart for a variety of health publications including BLOGS, newsletters, and educational materials and videos. Donna is passionate about the profession of nursing and supporting others. Self-care and work-life balance are the focus of her BLOG, Nurses Need Care Too. In addition, Donna runs an on-line BLOG and support Facebook group, Polymyalgia Rheumatica USA-Our Stories.

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25 Comment(s)

OUxPhys, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiology. Has 4 years experience.

Our hospital decided this was the perfect time to move the PCU up to a med-surg floor and combine the two thinking it would be an easy transition and instead has caused massive staff turnover and call-offs. 

dareese, MSN, RN

Specializes in Health Writer, School Nurse, Nurse Practitioner. Has 18 years experience.

I can see how that would happen!  There is nothing worse than being a displaced nurse in a chaotic and stressful situation.  I feel your pain!

CrunchRN, ADN, RN

Specializes in Clinical Research, Outpt Women's Health. Has 25 years experience.

22 hours ago, OUxPhys said:

Our hospital decided this was the perfect time to move the PCU up to a med-surg floor and combine the two thinking it would be an easy transition and instead has caused massive staff turnover and call-offs. 

Why would they do that?

 

OUxPhys, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiology. Has 4 years experience.

58 minutes ago, CrunchRN said:

Why would they do that?

 

Doctor infighting between general medicine and cardiology. Gen med thought they could handle taking care of cardiology pts and wanted to have cardiology as "consult only". Let me tell you last Summer clearly showed that experiment had failed. We don't have a true stepdown so they want one now but they also want to move same-surgery to the 2nd floor (where our old floor was) so now they will create a split unit (which makes no sense). 

So, we are currently on a med/surg tele floor and it's been hell. Alot of turnover. Alot of call offs. They seem to have finally got the message that what they are doing isn't safe. It doesn't matter though because the damage is done and they have lost alot of good nurses. 

Hoosier_RN, MSN

Specializes in dialysis. Has 28 years experience.

37 minutes ago, OUxPhys said:

It doesn't matter though because the damage is done and they have lost alot of good nurses. 

Usually, when it gets to that point, the general community knows it and doesn't trust the facility. It becomes a joke. Sad...and all over ego

OUxPhys, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiology. Has 4 years experience.

41 minutes ago, Hoosier_RN said:

Usually, when it gets to that point, the general community knows it and doesn't trust the facility. It becomes a joke. Sad...and all over ego

Everyone in the hospital knows what happened and how we were treated. Upper management has tried to put the fires out but as you said people don't trust them. They are either retiring, finding other jobs in the system, or waiting it out. It's so bad they are bringing in agency nurses. 

dareese, MSN, RN

Specializes in Health Writer, School Nurse, Nurse Practitioner. Has 18 years experience.

Wow!  Are you considering changing positions?  There are loads of nursing jobs out there right now. 

OUxPhys, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiology. Has 4 years experience.

1 hour ago, dareese said:

Wow!  Are you considering changing positions?  There are loads of nursing jobs out there right now.  

 

Yes. I accepted a position in the cath lab. Still waiting on a start date though.

dareese, MSN, RN

Specializes in Health Writer, School Nurse, Nurse Practitioner. Has 18 years experience.

Congratulations.  Good luck in the new position!

OUxPhys, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiology. Has 4 years experience.

Thank you!

renatanada

Specializes in Been all over. Has 13 years experience.

I felt obligated to help by going back to hospital bedside nursing during the pandemic. I lasted exactly one year, to the day. I was rewarded by a hospital system that did not protect me=one (1) N95... for my entire year there. So of course I got COVID. My soul was completely crushed by the insane staff:patient workload and patients who threw things at me, cursed at, and berated me personally for the ills of the American healthcare system. "Heroes," whatever. More like servants. Why nurses put up with this treatment is beyond me, but the amount of ridiculous backbiting and throwing each other under the bus is amazing. I'm in clinicals for NP school now. And I am: Never. Looking. Back. 

dareese, MSN, RN

Specializes in Health Writer, School Nurse, Nurse Practitioner. Has 18 years experience.

Well done going back to the bedside to help out the cause!!  Too bad it was a horrendous experience.  I, too, was the new nurse at a hospital during covid, and it was pretty awful, although I kept it to myself.  Some of the nurses and aides were very mean to me also 😞 .  I am a nurse practitioner also, so I wish you the best in your new career.  I now write articles about nurse practitioners! Here are a few of my articles that may help you in this transition!

https://www.nursingprocess.org/attend-NP-school-while-working-full-time.html

https://www.nursingprocess.org/unique-nurse-practitioner-jobs.html

https://www.nursingprocess.org/least-stressful-nurse-practitioner-jobs.html

https://www.nursingprocess.org/MSN-is-worth-it.html

 

Wishing you the best!!

OUxPhys, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiology. Has 4 years experience.

9 hours ago, renatanada said:

I felt obligated to help by going back to hospital bedside nursing during the pandemic. I lasted exactly one year, to the day. I was rewarded by a hospital system that did not protect me=one (1) N95... for my entire year there. So of course I got COVID. My soul was completely crushed by the insane staff:patient workload and patients who threw things at me, cursed at, and berated me personally for the ills of the American healthcare system. "Heroes," whatever. More like servants. Why nurses put up with this treatment is beyond me, but the amount of ridiculous backbiting and throwing each other under the bus is amazing. I'm in clinicals for NP school now. And I am: Never. Looking. Back. 

I hate being called a hero. Im not. Im a vet and people call me a hero. Im not. It's funny how these people will complain about the American healthcare system yet will rail against any alternative "because Socialism".

love2banurse89, BSN, RN

Specializes in Educator, COVID Paperwork Expert (self-taught). Has 32 years experience.

I'm an Infection Control nurse in long-term care and COVID has been the most disheartening, discouraging part of my career. Not because of "COVID", but because of the ridiculous requirements put on long-term-care facilities in the areas of testing, monitoring, isolation, frequently (sometimes several times in one day) changing requirements, reporting, tracking...and this is NOT from our facility or company, but from the Health Dept., CDC, etc. Some of these were necessary but some were an overreaction that did not help anyone in any way, and actually took away from resident well-being. The number of nursing hours and money that went into these things is staggering. And the loss to our residents is one of the saddest things I've ever been a part of. Many didn't see family members for over a year. Didn't get hugs. Died without family members. Did not see faces of staff members for months and months because of masks. We restricted to their rooms for weeks at a time. Again--some of this was necessary, especially at the beginning of the pandemic when we were not sure just what "COVID" was and what it meant to everyone. But we are going to look back someday -- many of us are already looking back--and ask ourselves what the h*ll we did to our residents. 

One of my biggest disappointments has been regarding vaccinations and the controversy surrounding them. One of our jobs as nurses--a main part of our jobs--is to respect resident/patients rights to make their own decisions, AND to respect each others' decisions. We are healthcare professionals and able to analyze information and make the decision that is best for us and for our family. I have been saddened and disheartened and lately, angered by the insults, bullying, pressure, and unkind words between those who have chosen to take the vaccine and those who have not. In my facility, thankfully I've had *discussions* with only a few people, and we still respect each other. And I've been thanked by non-nursing staff members for presenting both sides of the issue and encouraging them to make their own decision. However, I have been called names and been mocked online, by people who are nurses and should provide support and respect. This is a very difficult time in nursing; we have all had sufficient time to do research and make the decision to either get the vaccination or not, and we should be sticking together and supporting each other, not demeaning and calling names.

It's been a discouraging year and a half. To take my focus away from all the "bad", I've also made a list of things I've learned from COVID and will post that at a later date. 

 

dareese, MSN, RN

Specializes in Health Writer, School Nurse, Nurse Practitioner. Has 18 years experience.

WOW!  My heart goes out to you for all that you have gone through this past year.  I am so saddened by what happened to the residents of long-term care facilities, some necessary and some not so much.  To say it was an awful time for them is saying it too lightly.  It indeed was a discouraging time for nursing! 

I pray that the profession can dust itself off and carry on.

Thank you for this insightful and heartfelt post!

nursej22, MSN, RN

Specializes in Public Health, TB. Has 36 years experience.

On 7/2/2021 at 5:35 AM, OUxPhys said:

Doctor infighting between general medicine and cardiology. Gen med thought they could handle taking care of cardiology pts and wanted to have cardiology as "consult only". Let me tell you last Summer clearly showed that experiment had failed. We don't have a true stepdown so they want one now but they also want to move same-surgery to the 2nd floor (where our old floor was) so now they will create a split unit (which makes no sense). 

So, we are currently on a med/surg tele floor and it's been hell. Alot of turnover. Alot of call offs. They seem to have finally got the message that what they are doing isn't safe. It doesn't matter though because the damage is done and they have lost alot of good nurses. 

Our facility did this 5 years ago. Experienced cardiac nurses were disregarded by hospitalists when voicing concern about pulmonary edema, arrhythmias, and obvious acute coronary syndrome. It was just one more straw on the camels' back for me. That, plus put all the ETOH patients on the cardiac floor because we were "so well staffed", even though the aides were pulled as sitters to other units. Sure, how hard can it be to do hourly CIWA checks, an insulin drip on an open-heart, and milrinone on a heart failure patient. With no aide. 

OUxPhys, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiology. Has 4 years experience.

3 minutes ago, nursej22 said:

Our facility did this 5 years ago. Experienced cardiac nurses were disregarded by hospitalists when voicing concern about pulmonary edema, arrhythmias, and obvious acute coronary syndrome. It was just one more straw on the camels' back for me. That, plus put all the ETOH patients on the cardiac floor because we were "so well staffed", even though the aides were pulled as sitters to other units. Sure, how hard can it be to do hourly CIWA checks, an insulin drip on an open-heart, and milrinone on a heart failure patient. With no aide. 

Exactly. We got everything cardiac but then were expected to also take MS pts including CIWA, dementia, etc. It got to the point where gen med was managing HF so poorly that cardiology would send their pts to MICU....so you had MICU nurses with ICU staffing ratios taking care of pts that should be under cardiology on our old floor while we ran around with our heads cut off. What's funny is there will be probably 3 nurses left when its all said and done. The rest retired or moved on. Such a shame because we were a great unit. What's even funnier is the higher ups said "This is the new normal. We aren't going back. Either we go forward or you find a different job", so the rest of us said "bye" and now they are like "why is everyone leaving". They just cant come to grips this was their eff-up.