The emotional effects after Covid Cherese Pate, RN, BSN, NC I stood in the middle of my bedroom hugging my sobbing niece. My niece had come to visit me in Atlanta, GA after the completion of her assignment. She was sobbing for feeling so helpless and not being able to help or advocate for her dying Covid 19 patients while she was on a crisis assignment in New York during the pandemic. I hated seeing her so sad and vulnerable. She knew I could empathize with her, I too was in New York at the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic as an emergency room nurse. At that very moment hugging my niece, I realized we both were suffering from our own versions of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) as well as a mild form of depression, maybe me moreso than her. Her feelings and emotions are no different than thousands of nurses across this country that are sacrificing their lives for the betterment of their patients. Honestly a lot of us are not ok!
Healthcare workers continue to selflessly place their lives on the line to do what they do best save lives! They are working extra shifts, not taking breaks, working with limited supplies of PPE which is necessary to protect themselves from this new deadly and rapidly spreading virus, witnessing way to many people dying without the comfort of their own loved ones, being forced to sleep in separate areas of their own homes to decrease the chances of spreading the virus to their own families, not to mention the ostracizing and public protests from those wanting the shelter in place orders lifted. This is a huge emotional burden for any one person to bear alone.
No One Was Prepared
The novel coronavirus swept through this country like a thief in the night leaving us no time to prepare for its wrath. Hospitals were not prepared for this widespread pandemic leaving no time to think about therapists, counselors, or psychiatrists being set in place. While things are changing rapidly and daily, we are more aware of the mental destruction nurses and healthcare workers face. Hospital leaders can not continue to turn a blind eye on our heros.
Many nurses have family and friends to lean on for comfort, as my niece did to me. Although people want to support us with voluntary advice, it is often hard for them to say the right things. It is natural for them to want to offer kind words of advice and suggestions of self care, exercise, and healthy eating, not to mention, don’t think about it, you’re home now. However, we can not minimize the current psychological distress Covid 19 has forever embedded in our minds. It will take time for many to get back to emotional and mental normalcy.
Now is the time
Now is the time for healthcare leaders to compassionately check on their nurses. Now is the time to revamp our best practices to include pop up shift huddles, peer support groups, debriefings, on site counselors, and or therapists to help ease the extraordinary demands currently being placed on nurses and healthcare workers. ICN stated “ Governments have a duty of care to their nurses, which should mirror the appreciation and support nurses are getting every day from the vast majority of the public.” This battle is not over. If our nurses are not taken care of now, who will be left to care for the
patients if there is a predicted second wave?
Cherese Pate, RN, BSN, NC 404-618-3353