Caring From the Front Lines: An Updated Version.

My original article just doesn’t express my present day-to-day as a nurse on the front lines. My new reality.

Working Nurse recently published my article detailing a day in the life of an ICU nurse caring for patients with Covid19. My words were as authentic as possible while being cognizant of the public platform and sensitive nature of the content. (It could be helpful to read that article FIRST to best understand!)

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PPE is rationed out and kept safely in paper bags

Healthcare is a rapidly evolving system, and in times of Pandemic, the rate of change is unparalleled. By the time the article hit the internet, many of my observations were already out of date. As I read it today, I think to myself, this was obviously written before.

Before is a mentality I imagine you can appreciate.

Before Coronavirus, I could go to the movies. Before the pandemic, I could engage in group-hugs. I used to buy toilet paper anytime, anywhere; but that was before. 

For me, a nurse in a medical ICU, BEFORE was an era in which the virus was evident at work but I wasn’t personally affected. Each shift was increasingly intense and surreal, but otherwise, life went on as normal. “Covid” patients were sequestered to a few specific rooms and my personal concerns were compartmentalized right along with them.

Simply put, I wrote the article before S#!+ got real.

Before…

  • Our department was at near capacity with Covid-positive patients.
  • our dwindling PPE supply – masks, gloves, and face shields –  were placed in a locked room and rationed while staff use shower curtains and hand-sewn masks as replacements
  • Visitors were restricted from the hospital campus in its entirety.
  • Short staffing and the quantity of the patients made it impossible to have a secondary/observer RN to help. We now put on/take off our PPE,  disinfect our supplies alone and generally have 2:1 assignments (2 patients to one nurse) – patients this critically ill were always a 1:1 assignment before. 

I composed that paper before I had lived through the solitary dread of being the only caregiver in a room with a crashing patient; sweating through my scrubs and paper gown, my view obstructed through a bleach-smeared face shield. Colleagues stood pensively outside the glass door, offering support via walkie-talkies, prepared to enter but waiting until the crucial moment. For the sake of staff safety, and to preserve PPE, we must question: does this require a second set of hands? Is this moment worth the use of our equipment?

In the past week, my role has changed drastically. My nursing scope has expanded to include phlebotomy (drawing labs), housekeeping, and respiratory therapist skills. We’re taking all measures necessary to decrease exposure to Coronavirus, and to preserve protective gear. A nurse is one essential person that must enter the room multiple times a shift. Therefore, the decision has been made to require nurses a multitude of tasks that others would normally do. While decreasing how many people are exposed, this increases exposure to the nurse. img_5569

Finally, the article was penned long before I understood the evolving nature of the virus, worked desperately and yet futilely to care for and save patients in their early 40s. Before I woke to the news that doctors and nurses are contracting and dying of Coronavirus too.

My original article just doesn’t express my present day-to-day as a nurse on the front lines.

My new reality.

Across the globe, everyone is coping with their own version of this new normal. Struggling to make sense of this; to stay sane. So many of us are hurting – physically, emotionally, financially.

We have to listen. We have to act in accordance  – (Find the CDC’s FAQ Here!)–  in order for this to end.

And listen – as dire as this feels right now, it will end.

Just as there is a “Before“, there will be an “After“; first, we must go through.

The extent to which we embrace this as an opportunity to grow will define us as individuals and as a community.

We can do this together.

Thank you to all who have sent messages,  and donated food, masks, and equipment.

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My new mask! Hand sewn with love by Emily Fritz, ARNP

We nurses feel the love, and we are doing our best to stop the spread of this virus and to get your loved ones healthy and back home to you.

Thank you for doing your part too!

How are you holding up?

Are you feeling a sense of nostalgia for BEFORE?

Can’t wait to for this to be over and get to the AFTER? 

As we go through this, I’m here for you!

Please email me – tiffany@recoverandrise.com.

I’m happy to support you through this time. 

 “The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not reflect the views of my workplace.”

Year of the Nurse Spotlight #2: Shannon – “Addicts need help, NOT punishment.”

Rather than feeling empowered to self-report and get help early on, nurses end up in legal trouble or trouble at work for diverting.

 

Shannon McDonald’s smile is contagious. She’s funny and kind and has a passion for refurbishing furniture and hitting the trails with her family on their ATVs.

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But it wasn’t always this way.

In 2009, Shannon’s life was the stuff addiction is made of: a lack of coping skills “I was a negative person”, a troubled relationship “My husband and I were awful to each other” a legitimate cause for pain prescriptions “migraines and herniated discs” and high-stress job as an emergency room nurse in a Level 1 Trauma Center.

Similar to my experience, Shannon learned the hard way: marijuana’s not the gateway drug, opiate prescription pills are.

This post is longer than usual but worth it! In the following interview, Shannon opens up about procuring drug hookups in jail, suffering withdrawal from heroin, and finally, the joy of recovery.

Recover and Rise: Shannon, how long have you been sober, and what do you define yourself in recovery from?

Shannon: My sober date is Dec 2, 2015. I’ve been in recovery for 4 years and 3 months from drugs, alcohol, job burnout, and a generally crappy attitude – LOL!

Continue reading “Year of the Nurse Spotlight #2: Shannon – “Addicts need help, NOT punishment.””

2020: The Year of the Nurse

Stigma keeps us silent, while unrealistic expectations promote bravado. But we’re not doing ourselves any favors with this facade of invincibility.

Nurses have been recognized for a week each year in May since the early 1990s.

This year’s even better. Every single one of the 366 days in 2020, dedicated to us! (Yep, it’s a leap year!)

In honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed 2020:

THE YEAR OF THE NURSE

I might be a tad biased, but if anyone deserves a whole year of devotion, it’s me and my nurse peeps.

#YON2020 isn’t just an excuse to eat birthday cake with Nurse Flo’s name on it. The WHO intends to advance nurses’ vital position in transforming healthcare around the world.

Nurses and midwives play a vital role in providing health services…They are often, the first and only point of care in their communities. The world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives if it is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.

I’m on board with boosting legislation that results in Universal Health Care, but my agenda is a little different; I’m concerned with the health of nurses themselves.

So when I first heard the phrase “Year of the Nurse” this is what (and who) came to my mind:

  • Critical Care colleagues physically exhausted, facing moral distress
  • Colleagues in recovery fighting to keep their license, sobriety and lives intact
  • Nursing students who are ill-prepared for the sacrifice their careers will demand

I thought of the secret shame so many of us harbor, overwhelmed with life and work but desperate to keep anyone from thinking we’re weak. We even hide from our coworkers, despite our shared experience which could foster deep connections if we felt empowered to let down our walls.

Professional Burnout is an epidemic, alcoholism runs rampant, and substance use disorder – specifically opiate abuse – is a personal crisis many of us are facing.

Continue reading “2020: The Year of the Nurse”

Road to Redemption: Return to Critical Care

I’m happy for the opportunity to make amends to the organization, my coworkers, my patients, and the nursing profession. It’s not a privilege I’m taking lightly. I know the rate of relapse. I know this could be my last chance at a blemish free nursing license.

Two point five years ago, I had to leave my position as a nurse in Critical Care due to probably the most shameful and disturbing reasons a nurse can imagine.

It feels nothing short of miraculous that I’ve been given an opportunity to return.

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Fueled by caffeine and ready for orientation

(Although some might say I’m returning to the scene of the crime, and they would technically be correct.)

For nearly five of my 14 years as a nurse, I worked in CCU and loved the job, despite its flaws. I felt at home in the role. But I completely mismanaged the stress in my life, making tragic and regretful decisions.

For the background on my detour away from “overachiever” into “Real Life Nurse Jackie” check out this BLOG I wrote, publicly declaring myself as an addict.

I was let go from the job, spent three months in treatment and submerged myself in recovery. Since returning to work, I’ve been employed in lower acuity areas than CCU, working my way up – but stayed on night shift because it’s where I’ve always felt most comfortable mentally and physically.

Probably beginning somewhere early last Fall, I felt in my soul it was time to take another step forward. I reached out to key people in administration, asking their blessing to apply for a new position. I also talked it over with my case manager and my sober support system.

Continue reading “Road to Redemption: Return to Critical Care”