A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a Facebook post about COVID nurses experiencing PTSD. I shared it with the travel nurse forum, and it really resonated with many of the nurses there, having received over 1,200 likes and a ton of comments. I’m not alone in my silent suffering.
Nurses and PTSD
This weekend marks my last 5 nights of work as a traveler in a COVID ICU. My contract is up, and although they have offered to extend me until December, I just can’t do it any longer. Of course, I have grad school to finish, but even if I did not, I would have to take a long step away from being around patients in danger of dying.
I’ve seen a lot of death in these last 18 months.
I can tell it has affected me; how could it not? I’m an empath in a lot of ways. It helps me be a better nurse. But when exposed to so much suffering and death, it becomes more of a liability than an asset.
I thought we had beat this COVID virus back… and won the battle. On the July 4th weekend, we only had a single COVID-19 ICU patient, and he was from 100 miles away. The vaccine works. Social distancing and masks work. But I failed to remember the depths of human stupidity.
Now… a couple of weeks later, the ICU is full again. Hell, we even had a patient come to us from another state because 9 hospitals had rejected admitting them because they were already full of COVID ICU patients. They lived approximately 5 hours after their arrival. I worked on them for an hour, trying to resuscitate them without success. There were a bunch of worn-out ICU nurses from doing countless rounds of CPR that night. And that doesn’t count all the work done beforehand to stabilize the patient—another avoidable battle lost in this endless war.
I’m just tired of seeing people die despite my best efforts to save them.
This 4th wave of COVID-19 is going to be bad. There are 100 million people in this country who refuse to get the vaccine, but they are walking around, without masks, without social distancing, acting like they’ve been vaccinated. These are the people who think they are invincible or know their “rights” or maybe don’t believe COVID-19 is a big deal.
Maybe you won’t get COVID-19, or maybe just a mild case of it. But if you ignore those 10% of the people who end up in the hospital requiring oxygen or the 2% who end up in the ICU, knocking on death’s door, you need to understand this. When you or your loved one has a serious accident or illness, there won’t be any ICU beds or nurses for you. You might be transferred hundreds of miles away from your hometown to receive care. Because the limited number of hospital beds and staff are being used to treat all those COVID patients that you don’t think about. Maybe you won’t die of COVID, but your care will most likely be compromised because of it. I anticipate another 200,000 people in the USA dying from COVID-19 before this is all over. And I can’t physically or mentally fight this battle for you anymore.
So stop being selfish. Stop thinking only about yourself. I’m glad people weren’t so self-absorbed and anti-vax when polio and smallpox were around. Get the vaccine. If not for yourself, then for everyone else.
But I digress. This RN is tired and weary from a fight that never seems to end. Calling me a hero doesn’t mean anything. Making COVID pay doesn’t fill that empty void. It doesn’t comfort me shift after shift of the non-stop dying. Calling families up and letting them know their loved ones have passed. Of holding the hand of someone as they exit this life. Of calling the end of a Code Blue and looking at all the hollow eyes of my fellow nurses and respiratory therapists, knowing we lost another human being to this damned disease.
Burnt out? Yes. Traumatized? Definitely.
I noticed I’ve been avoiding people and obligations a lot more lately. Self-isolating and ignoring my schoolwork. I probably need some counseling and a long, relaxing vacation somewhere quiet. With no alarms, bells, or loud noises. And maybe a stiff drink. Maybe a good cry.
Thanks for reading.
Please note: the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect those of The Gypsy Nurse and its staff.
Nurses and PTSD