This article was written by someone who wishes to remain anonymous. Due to the topic and emotionally charged nature of the article, the member wanted the topic out in the open so nurses could discuss it. Because she is afraid of retribution if any of her hospital administrative staff should read this article and link it back to her, we offered to publish it for her anonymously. Please add your comments regarding this issue negatively impacting nurses and the healthcare system.
COVID-19 is here and it is terrifying. People are scared. People are panicking.
I have seen posts that criticize nurses who choose not to work right now because they are afraid. “This is what YOU signed up for!” people say.
That is not true. This is NOT what we signed up for. NOBODY has signed up for this.
Unlike what you might have seen on TV, there are many different types of nurses and we all have different skills. We specialize in our own fields.
The Renal nurse knows how to educate patients who are in renal failure about fluid and dietary restrictions, so they do no overload their systems. She understands shunts and dialysis equipment. For the patient in renal failure, she is an expert.
The Cardiac nurse knows how to take care of patients who have just had open-heart surgery. She can read an EKG expertly. She may not know how to connect a patient to a dialysis machine, but for cardiac patients, she is an expert.
The Labor and Delivery nurse can check your cervix to tell when it’s time to push. She can read fetal monitoring strips to make sure your baby is not in distress during labor. She may not be an expert at reading EKGs, but for a laboring mom, she is an expert.
The ICU nurse takes care of the most fragile patients. She understands ventilator settings, arterial pressure readings, blood gas readings. Drugs that most wards will never see – like Levophed are used here. She cannot check your cervix, but for a critical patient, she is a lifesaver.
Each of these nurses (and oh so many more different types of nurses!) are experts in their fields. They “signed up” to care for those patients. They have trained and educated themselves to care for their specific patients. That is why if you are in labor, you want a labor nurse, not a renal nurse, at your bedside.
Right now, ALL NURSES, regardless of specialty, are being called to care for COVID patients. Please bear in mind that not ALL nurses have been trained to deal with highly infectious patients who have the potential to go into acute respiratory distress quickly. We are NOT being offered additional training. This is part of the reason nurses are terrified. This is why some nurses are leaving nursing right now. This is definitely NOT what they “signed up for.”
For the most part, nurses take care of people who are ill or injured with non-communicable illnesses or injuries like cancer, heart disease, strokes, car accidents, etc. This means we can help without the risk of catching our patient’s illness or injury.
We do take care of patients with infectious illnesses as well – the flu, pneumonia, etc. Because these patients do not take up a large part of our hospital normally, we have the appropriate respirators, reverse-air flow rooms, and PPE we need to take care of these patients. These patients are usually on appropriate wards with nurses who have been trained to care for them. Although there is a risk when we take care of these patients, there are also vaccines and known treatments to help us fight if we get infected.
COVID-19 IS DIFFERENT. IT IS A HIGHLY INFECTIOUS, POTENTIALLY FATAL VIRUS WITH NO KNOWN CURE OR TREATMENT.
Because it is a PANDEMIC, many people are sick at the same time. Hospitals are overwhelmed. Patients are being sent to wards where nurses do not have the correct expertise to care for them. Hospitals do not have the appropriate equipment to help keep their nurses SAFE while we are caring for patients. There are not enough masks. Nurses are being asked to wear bandanas or sew their own masks at home! Would YOU walk into a potentially infected person’s room and care for them with a bandana?
So please. STOP. STOP saying “Nurses signed up for this.”
We did not. We did not sign up to sacrifice ourselves because hospitals won’t provide us with the proper equipment and training we need.
We did not sign up to die of an infectious disease just because “it’s your job!”
Do you want a labor nurse trying her best to ‘figure out’ how to operate a ventilator for your child? Do you want a cardiac nurse delivering your daughter’s baby? Do you want a wound care nurse to try and figure out your dialysis settings? No. I promise - you don’t.
We understand you need us, but our families need us too.
If we are scared right now, it’s because we have every damned reason to be terrified.
If some nurses choose to stay home and protect their families, that is their priority. They have a right to protect their own life. No JOB is worth anyone’s life