Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
It isn’t just me and my cohort at the hospital where I work that are feeling the pressure. “One year ago, we were heroes. Now, we’re back to being the evil nurses who ruin everything”, paraphrased from a coworker. In talking to other nurses, I hear much of the same. “People are acting crazy. Families. Patients.”
After the stress of the pandemic, we’re at the tail end glimpsing the light at the end of this never-ending tunnel. Instead of being welcomed back into society and cared for as the wounded that we are, the veterans of the War Against COVID are finding out that there is no respite. COVID is ending, but the battle for our selves and our health is just beginning. Many simply will not do it any longer.
The Washington Post even deigned to cover the impending loss of services, as the caregivers we have become so reliant upon and have taken for granted, finally decide that enough is enough. The nurses that were pushing through retirement to get just a few more years are starting to weigh the risks and are determining that the cost is too high for one more year of pay. Doctors are deciding that the stress, the paperwork, the bureaucracy, and the loss is just too much to withstand any longer.
This pandemic wounded our entire nation, partly due to the never-ending, depressive death-ticker on news sources like CNN and MSNBC. Our medical workers, seeing it first hand, were surrounded by it at every moment. While those not in the field panicked or hid from it, those who saw it every day could do neither. Those in the field were confronted every single waking moment with no escape. The “benefits” of the pandemic (people finally vocally and openly appreciating healthcare workers of all stripes), including nice little 10% discounts or coupons, and cards written by the schoolchildren, were still reminders of the pressures. We focused almost exclusively on the patients’ needs, the families’, and the toll on society. We made a point about the pressures of the masks on the faces of the nurses and doctors. But then as COVID numbers started to wane, the discounts were removed, the cards no longer came, the dust settled upon the “Our Workers are Healthcare Heroes!” signs, and all reminders of the recent lethal past started to be shuffled back into some closet in favor of promoting cleanliness, sanitization, and a return to normal (profitable) services.
In the meantime, collective society has PTSD. People can no longer function normally and they have little patience or understanding for even the most minor of inconveniences. Though the mainstream media (previously called “the news”) acts like the recent shootings are vastly abnormal signs of a cry for better gun control laws, they neglect the signs of a nation in distress(emphasis mine):
Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:
- Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
- Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
- Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
- Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event
Symptoms of avoidance may include:
- Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
- Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
Negative changes in thinking and mood
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:
- Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
- Hopelessness about the future
- Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
- Feeling detached from family and friends
- Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
- Feeling emotionally numb
Changes in physical and emotional reactions
Symptoms of changes in physical and emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Always being on guard for danger
- Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
While the Mayo Clinic makes these symptoms very clear, on a societal level we are experiencing broad PTSD and are taking it out on our Healthcare Heroes, as well as everybody else. While restrictions loosen, people are more tightly wound than ever.
Ultimately, if we do not, as a nation make the choice to come together and do some serious introspection and healing, we will lose our Healthcare workers permanently. Many will only serve as long as they see a crisis. As the pandemic becomes another footnote in American history, more and more clinical staff will move away from patient care and bedside services in order to retire or to simply recover from their personal trauma in another field.
Please understand. These are people who have worked previously with death, great personal stress, great moral distress at patients’ care, and have managed to justify it to themselves and push through. Many have done this for many, many years and have felt fulfilled by it. After a year of this, many of them are done pushing.
As long as we continue to treat our Healthcare workers as we do and act as if they are heroes one moment and expendable the next; as long as we continue to literally abuse our Healthcare workers, we will find that the only ones who will take the abuse are either working with an expiration date looming, or that they are not the kind of people that we want providing compassionate care to ourselves and our families. Perhaps even more frighteningly, as long as we continue to treat them this way and the Healthcare workers are no longer shamed into silence, people will find out.
Some of those people might no longer go into nursing school or medical school or decide to get their phlebotomy certificate.
Some of those people might no longer decide that the money is worth the trade in health.
Some of those people might decide to learn to code.
And the rest of us will learn that humans can never be heroes all day, all night, day in, day out. The rest of us will learn that while we might call them “Angels”, they are fragile. And despite their overwhelming strength, can still be broken.
Not everything that breaks can be put back together again.Published in