During the pandemic, nursing took on a whole new meaning.
**This article is compiled through several different stories and personal interviews of my friends who dedicate their lives to healthcare and nursing.**
Washington State is no different than many of the other states where nurses became quickly burned out during the pandemic. Nursing is not an easy career, especially during a pandemic. My friends* Evelyn, Michelle, and Naomi have all been affected by the pandemic, and it's changed the course of their careers. Here are their stories.
Evelyn: I became a nurse because I wanted to make a difference in people's lives. I started nursing school right out of high school. I chose pediatric nursing because I enjoy working with children.
However, during the course of the pandemic, I was pulled from my pediatric duties to the emergency room, where I was on my feet for twelve to twenty-four-hour shifts. We were so swamped with patients in the emergency room that we often worked beyond our normal shift schedule.
The burnout is real. I was finally so exhausted that I nearly wound up in the hospital myself. I needed to take a break and destress. Stress was killing me. Stress is a huge contributor to heart attacks and high blood pressure, and I was afraid I was headed for both conditions.
I left nursing but retained my credentials. Today, I write about skilled nursing care and give lectures to college students who are enrolling in nursing courses. It's allowed me to recuperate and appreciate my skills without adding undue stress to my life.
Michelle: I chose nursing because my mother had recently passed away from a genetic medical condition. I have worked my way up to the top, but I realized that the stress wasn't worth it when I got there.
I spend long hours in the ICU unit of our hospital. I was supposed to be on call. However, they called every day, and I worked for twenty-four days straight without a day off. Exhaustion was an understatement.
I left the facility where I was working and traded it in for working in a nursing home. I enjoy getting to know my patients more intimately and caring for them in their final years.
It's given me more freedom and relaxation. The ICU was always swamped, and I didn't feel I could give personal care to my patients because often, they were being stabilized before being transferred to another facility for their care.
The main drawback is that the nursing home where I work is a longer commute, but by working the swing shift and night shift, I can avoid traffic congestion and spend more time enjoying my life.
Naomi: My parents are both in nursing. I followed in their footsteps. During the pandemic, my family spent a lot of time working without a break. I quickly burned out. There were weeks on end when I didn't get a break. I was either at work or at home asleep, catching up on my rest.
I resigned from the care facility that I was working for and found an online nursing job. Today, I take calls from patients, answer minor nursing care questions, or recommend an online appointment with one of our doctors or clinicians.
There is far less stress, and I feel more valued. An added benefit is that I only have to go into the office one day a week. The rest of the time, I work from home. This reduces my stress even more.
These are just three stories of many. Many who were in nursing have retired or completely changed careers. The pandemic was a challenging time. Many nurses worked nonstop and have suffered serious medical issues because of it.
Consequently, there is a nursing shortage in many regions. Covid-19 played a huge part in how nursing has evolved. Thankfully, there are many great career alternatives for nurses to pursue if they are exhausted and suffering from the burnout of the pandemic.
*Names were changed to protect their privacy.
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