Nurses, it’s okay to quit if you don’t have proper protection during this pandemic!

Covid-19 is a morally confronting moment for healthcare workers. It’s INGRAINED in them to put their patients first and they WANT to uphold the integrity of their profession. They didn’t sign up for an easy job and they aren’t inclined to give up easily when things get really rough but the moment I found out that my hospital wasn’t providing PPE to the nurses and doctors, I froze up inside and the idea of volunteering my assistance (since I’m an ex-nurse) died. I have nightmares about neighbors asking me if I’m able to help their loved ones at home who are unable to access healthcare facilities since there are only 3 ventilators at our local hospital. I’m concerned about my friends on the frontline and I’m questioning my own moral code for being unable to take the risks that they are currently taking.

I have several nurse friends that are truly struggling with whether they should stay at work or not (due to the lack of PPE). I would like to take a moment to address those who choose to walk away:

You might be wondering if you’re doing the right thing and perhaps people are judging you right now, accusing you of abandoning your post at a time when your community needs you the most.

I want you to understand that WE GET IT and it’s okay to quit due to a lack of protection.

We cannot know the individual circumstances of every nurse and doctor and what they might have on the line. Some of them are unable to separate from family and have immune-compromised people at home or maybe they are immune compromised themselves. Whatever the case, every person needs to make a decision for themselves and we should refrain from making judgement.

If a firefighter had to save lives, they wouldn’t send them in without protective gear and a nurse should not be expected to walk into a fire unprotected either.

Watch: Nurses are protesting the lack of supplies to fight Covid-19:

THANK YOU to all the healthcare workers and other essential workers who probably don’t get enough recognition. We are grateful for every one of you, no matter what choice you make to safeguard yourself and your loved ones.

Thank you to those who are making personal sacrifices to stay at home and reduce the curve.

Here’s some tips on other things you can do to help:

If you’re in South Africa:

Is hope a good thing for dying patients?

I had been working myself to the bone. There was never enough staff on board. I had injured myself trying to tug and pull and move very sick patients around. Did my best to get their bodies cleaned up and dress them but I was exhausted. The matrons saw me as a nuisance and a rebel. I was calling in sick more often, complaining about the state of things. I have had an amazing track record before. Never skipped a single day. They forced me into a ward that I couldn’t perform my best in and left me unsupported. I tried hard to come to terms with it. There was one particular night I actually forced myself to be optimistic so I went into the wards without a mask on. It was symbolic of my determination to commit to these patients – I would not recommend taking off your protective gear though…it’s a stupid thing to do. I wanted to pick them up, lift their moods, treat them with respect. With so much to do I barely had the time to do such a thing usually but I wanted to try anyway.

I went in there, a mask-less hero, opened the windows, used my most cheerful voice, greeted the patients with a sunny “goood morning ladies!”

A pouting patient didn’t want to move or wake up…I touched her shoulder and said “Hey, come on, it’s morning. The tea will be coming around soon. Lets get you cleaned up and you should brush your hair. You are going to be okay! You can do this! You are strong!”

I realized my mistake only when she responded with “Are you sure I’m going to be okay?”

Was I putting false hope into her head?

“Yes. You are going to be okay.” the words slipped out before I could even stop them.

She looked at me thoughtfully. My mind went haywire. Omg, did I just tell a patient she wasn’t going to die? Did I overstep the line? What do I do? I imagined the words in my head…”no sorry, I didn’t mean that you’re going to live. You’re dying.” – there’s no way to say that without sounding like a cold-blooded crazy person. They don’t live in my bubble. They’re about to lose their lives. My need to make everything pretty may not be welcomed. How do you deal with this? How much optimism is too much? Is false hope better than no hope? What if all you need is a change in mindset and you could live a better life even if you are dying?

Great, back to cold, grey reality while I mull that one over. I reeled in my optimism and went on with my routine. This time, keeping my big mouth shut.

Stress, pain and drug abuse in nurses.

My sister shared a video of a nurse on duty, high on drugs resulting in this post. In the video, the patient is in her bed, someone secretly records the nurse who is apparently high. The nurse nods off frequently.

The only reason I am sharing this video is to talk about what’s on the other side of the coin and to offer an outlet to nurses struggling with addiction issues.

Were they wrong to record this nurse who was high on duty?

No. Being high on duty is an unacceptable breach of trust and a real danger to the lives of other people.

Should they have shared this video with hospital management?

Yes. Management has to ensure the safety and well-being of patients first and foremost.

Should they have shared the video online for the whole world to see?

No! It is bad enough that this video likely resulted in her losing her job and licence. Is it really necessary to publicly disgrace her on top of it? To what end?

I’ve met nurses who had bottles upon bottles of pills. One nurse in particular, used to pour them out on the counter to show me just how many pills she takes in a day. I used to think she was crazy. She’s a nurse. She should know better. Right? Well, she SHOULD know better and she DOES know better but addiction isn’t that easy.

Those of you who are sitting there behind your keyboard, writing mean comments about this nurse – you may be surprised to know that you are not helping anyone. You’re not helping the patient (the hospital management already punished the nurse enough). You’re definitely not helping the nurse. I don’t blame you though since addiction isn’t easy to understand.

What does it take to understand an addict?

I had to lose someone I love dearly to learn that an addict isn’t taking drugs to hurt YOU. They can make you angry and they will push your buttons but they aren’t necessarily trying to hurt you (unless they are). They are usually just trying to ease their own inner pain. It helps them cope with everyday life. Does that mean you should feed their addiction or allow them to hurt you? Absolutely not though in many circumstances, a little understanding and empathy can go a long way.

In a hospital environment, work stress is high, nurses suffer all sorts of trauma, straight from high school into nursing school, they are dealt the harsh reality of life and death and things get really rough. Aside from work stress, you don’t know the long and winded history behind their addiction. Maybe they suffered some form of abuse in their childhood, or they lost someone they loved. In many cases an addicts brain is physically structured to be vulnerable to addictions.

Help one addict, save many lives.

Try to see the human in this nurse and offer her some support, love, and empathy. You will save an entire family from a world of pain if you can help one addict. There plenty resources out there. Books, videos, support groups, professional counselors and psychologists that can help you, help an addict.

If it is not in your hearts desire to help an addict, then I have one request. Step away from the addict and leave them alone. Your comments are only going to make it worse.

Sunk Cost Fallacy in Nursing – Why are you a nurse?

I was just out of high school with no idea where to take my life. I knew what I enjoyed. I knew that there were creative passions within me but I didn’t know that any of those could be turned into a career. That’s too much pressure. The career path is not laid out for you. There are no steps 1, 2, 3 to get to where you want to go. With nursing however, there are steps.

  1. Study Hard.
  2. Work Hard.
  3. Get Paid
  4. Climb the Ladder as you study further.

The template is made for you. You can follow those rules. You’ll survive. So when my mother told me that I should do nursing because it would give me a decent pay check and other government worker subsidies, I listened. I followed the steps with blurry vision (from the tears filling my eyes as my life took a shape of its own that teen me hadn’t fathomed). I made it work.

I studied. I found the job. I worked and followed the protocols. The work wasn’t easy but there was not much thinking to do on “how to succeed” – I just had to play my role and do as I was told and do it well. I could do that…for years…and years is what I did.

Years of books and early commutes to get to work by 6:30 and clock in at 6:45 for shift change. Get briefed on the previous shifts work, pick up their slack, have the morning meeting, the quick coffee, the dusting of the work space and start the whole routine, meds, doctors rounds, observation charts, empty catheter bags, insert catheters, syringes, blood tests, IV rounds, admissions, discharges, ringing bells, funky smells, visitors with the imaginary nursing degrees telling you that you don’t know how to do your job, patients without any patience, supervisors with no vision, doctors that kill you. Deaths. Infections. Pre-Op and Post-Op care. The list goes on and on and on and on. It sucks but it’s your job and you’ve been doing it for years and it’s everything you know how to do. You’ve put your all into it. You’ve not honed any new skills. This is everything.

You’ll keep doing it because it will pay off one day when you’re in one of those supervisor positions where you can delegate and chill out with a big paycheck. It’s worth it. You’ll pay your house off. Send your kids to college. Get that dream vacation.

But there’s a voice in your head. It’s a little voice that you shut down constantly. It’s telling you that you’re not happy. Your legs don’t want to move when the alarm clock rings and you often groan and drop out of bed onto the floor, where you fall asleep again as your dog or your partner rolls you into the shower. What? Did I lose you? That’s just me? Okay. So you get up off the bed and walk to the shower. You don’t feel alive but you’re still at it! You’re still doing your 12 hour shifts because it’s worth it.

Or are you suffering with what’s called “the sunk cost fallacy”?

The Sunk Cost Fallacy

The Misconception: You make rational decisions based on the future value of objects, investments and experiences.

The Truth: Your decisions are tainted by the emotional investments you accumulate, and the more you invest in something the harder it becomes to abandon it.

The misconception is that you can only pay off your house and educate your kids and do major life stuff because of your job as a nurse. You are invested in your job. It’s going to help you reach your dreams.

The truth of the matter is – that unless it’s a fulfilling journey, that’s no kind of life. We shouldn’t live for that one moment in the future that’s not guaranteed. We should enjoy the journey too. My aunt was a nurse. I was a student and worked in her surgical ward for a couple months. She worked hard. Her ward was well organized, neat as a pin and it was one of the best run wards in the hospital. Nurses didn’t all like her because she was strict on them. As her niece I only truly began to understand her life when I myself became a nurse and learnt of the stresses. She told me constantly about her dream. She worked out how many years she had to continue in nursing in order to pay off her house and save up for a decent retirement with beach holidays lined up. She seemed to have her plan all laid out. She suffered a heart attack and died before she could see any of that come to fruition. I was distraught over her death but I still continued on with my nursing career never stopping for a moment to think that it’s not the right answer. It’s my job. I do my job regardless of how it makes me feel. Isn’t that just what adults do? One of those things that just is the way it is. Why do we breathe oxygen? Why do we even exist? Who knows. We just breathe oxygen and we exist. That’s just what we do.

It wasn’t until I accidentally made money out of a hobby that I realized that there was another way and then still, I dragged out the nursing gig for years beyond that. Letting go is DIFFICULT.

There are so many attachments psychologically, financially, socially that keep you tied to your job but you sacrifice your happiness for it, believing it’s your only option. When it first struck me that I could toss away all the investments I made: I could throw out my studies, my licence, my time, and all the things I learnt, I was still held back by the reputation and social expectations placed on me…everyone thinks it’s a mistake to leave the thing you worked hard for. They tell you to stick it out. It becomes a part of your identity. Who are you? I’m a nurse. Those 3 tiny words pack a bundle of stories that instantly makes you more interesting or more hated. Whatever it is, you’ve made it a part of your existence and identity. How do you chop off a part of yourself? Really think about what it is that’s holding you back from quitting. Weigh that out with your level of happiness and inner fulfillment.

What do you think? Are you hostage to your investment? Or is nursing really something you actually love doing?

Copyright: Featured Image Posted with Permission from the Creator (Illustration By Tom Richmond)