As I write this, the COVID-19 pandemic has been raging around the world for more than ten months. Throughout that time, nurses have stood ready on the front lines, risking their own well-being as more than 63 million people contracted the novel coronavirus.
Day after day they have taken care of us, sometimes without proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Some nurses have cared for entire families in the ICU. When loved ones cannot be at the hospital or senior living facility, it has been nurses who have held the hands of dying patients as they said goodbye to their families via mobile devices – being the only human comfort in the room.
Frontline nurses frequently work 24-hour or even 36-hour shifts, putting their own and their family’s health at risk because there is no one else who can (or will) do it. They are bearing the brunt of the pandemic and living with its most devastating effects, which may cause emotional and psychological trauma. Every day in the news we see alarming stories about new surges across the country, and the distressing toll this fight against COVID-19 is taking on nurses and doctors.
Early 2020 saw parades of firetrucks, cheers from balconies, theme songs blaring down city blocks, and unique virtual celebrations taking place across the globe to support nurses and other healthcare workers.
Now, nurses, doctors, and other care team members are feeling forgotten. They don’t want to be heroes. They want to be heard and seen, and they want to be protected and alive to do their jobs. We can make more masks and ventilators, but we cannot manufacture more nurses and they are in short supply. We must do everything we can to protect and support them so they can do their jobs without fear and fatigue and remain in the profession.
Protecting frontline workers starts with a call for people to follow the CDC’s guidelines on how to prevent or at least slow the spread of COVID-19. Any nurse will tell you that while pizzas delivered to their floors are nice, what they really want is to have fewer COVID-19 patients in their hospital beds. Nurses are begging us all to take this virus seriously and to simply wear a mask. Wash your hands often. Use hand sanitizer. Socially distance by staying at least six feet away from others. Limit the size of gatherings to fewer than 10 people. Stay home when you can.
Thousands of hospitals are urging the public to mask up. They are making this plea to protect all of us as well as their nurses, doctors, and other frontline workers. I stand with these hospitals and all the people who are pleading with the public to #Maskup. If everyone would follow this recommendation from the CDC, regardless of their personal or political beliefs, nurses and other frontline healthcare workers would likely get a needed respite from the seemingly endless surge of severely ill and dying patients.
Wearing a mask when you are in public greatly reduces the spread of the virus and shows your support for and solidarity with nurses, who must wear their masks (and much more protective gear) throughout their brutally long shifts. Nurses and other frontline workers need our support right now. Please wear a mask for them.
These dedicated workers should be protected so they can continue saving lives. They should not have to bear the burden of public fatigue and discontent. In the early days of the pandemic, my daughter, who is a paramedic, experienced citizens bringing food to the station and thanking them for risking their well-being for others. Now she and her colleagues have had passers-by yelling at them. While caring for someone on the side of the road a driver yelled, “Stop scaring people” to my daughter because she was wearing personal protective equipment. This disregard for her safety and the importance of her work is worrisome for a mother, and it is very disheartening for my daughter and her colleagues, who work tirelessly to help others.
Paramedics, doctors, respiratory therapists, nurses, environmental service technicians and so many other healthcare professionals need our support during this difficult time. I know it’s been a long, hard year. It has been exceptionally difficult for these frontline workers battling COVID-19. Despite our fatigue from this virus, we must stay vigilant as we wait for relief from the vaccine and continue giving thanks to nurses and other care team members for all they do and the sacrifices they have made. I have never been prouder of my profession and their dedication to their communities. All of us, before we leave this life, will need a nurse. They are not an infinite resource, let’s make sure they are there when we need them.