S.O.S! Front Line Workers are Fighting an Invisible Invader

By ReyAnn Moya

April 7, 2020

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S.O.S! Front Line Workers are Fighting an Invisible Invader

We are fighting!

Against an invisible invader that has taken over the world. We are fighting against a healthcare system that proves time and time again how much they don’t care about the individuals who make up their business. We are listening to our “leaders” who are continuously misguiding the general public and risking the lives of the healthcare and front line workers for their own profit and political gain. There is palpable energy felt in the world right now. We can’t quite describe it but it’s there.

Hi, my name is ReyAnn Moya. I am a travel nurse currently working in an Emergency Department in San Francisco during this COVID pandemic. I’m here to speak a little truth into what I’ve seen and experienced during this difficult time we’re all facing.

I’ve written and rewritten this article several times during the past couple of weeks. If you would have asked me what I thought about the coronavirus a couple of weeks ago, I would have told you I thought it was comparable to the flu. That more people die from car accidents and heart disease than the coronavirus.

Fast-forward to now

My whole perspective has changed. Fast-forward to the call I got from the Department of Health saying my name was on the chart of a positive COVID-19 patient. The world, the virus and the research is constantly changing. And it’s felt like one big science experiment. The information overload has us all feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and vulnerable. We are living a real-life version of Contagion, except this isn’t a movie, this is our new reality.

As nurses, we see and encounter crazy things day in and day out.

We aren’t afraid of much, nothing people do really surprises us anymore and we can handle just about anything that comes our way. The nursing community is so dang resilient, and I am forever proud to be a part of this family. But today we’re up against something no one saw coming. A full-blown pandemic with a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) against a novel virus that we know little about.

Most days, prior to the breakout, I walked into my shift curious what the day would look like. Will someone die today? Will I have to calm an angry family member because I didn’t get them water fast enough? What patient will pop off and almost assault the staff? Should I eat early because I’m unsure if I’ll get a break? For most of us who work in healthcare, I’m sure you can relate.

But today most of us are asking ourselves something completely new.

  • “Will today be the day I get COVID?”
  • “Will I pass it to my family?”
  • “Does my hospital have PPE?”
  • “How will I protect myself?”
  • “Am I going to die?”

Never in my life would I have thought I would be asking myself these questions. For years, hospitals have been under-staffed, under-supported, overwhelmed and dangerous (especially the ER.) But now, hospitals are facing a whole new set of problems.

I am fortunate to be working at a hospital that has PPE (for now). I feel supported by my leaders and my coworkers, but I fear the inevitable surge and I fear for when I’ll be the one with no protection with a positive COVID patient. My anxiety is just as high as being at home as it is at work. Every shift is still a guessing game, and most days feel chaotic. No one has the answers and the policies and procedures are constantly changing.

PPE supply continues to dwindle as the number of COVID-19 patients continues to rise. The test kits are limited, which forces doctors to choose who they test and who they don’t. Then we patiently wait 3-7 days for results to come. It’s been surreal and I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t scared. This pandemic isn’t like anything we’ve ever seen before, let alone prepared for. We’re all winging it and looking to our leaders to help guide us. The world is now seeing what all healthcare professionals have seen for years: a broken healthcare system. But now we are seeing it on a much larger scale. Overflowing hallways with sick and dying patients, full ED and ICU beds with limited supplies to adequately do our jobs.

“But this is what you signed up for!”

I have heard a couple of people say, “But this is what you signed up for!” And let tell you that NONE of us signed up to walk into the fire without the proper gear. I can say firsthand how nurses go to the ends of the Earth for their patients, but not at the risk of getting ourselves sick. We cannot take care of others if we are sitting on the sidelines trying to recover as well. You would never send a cop to a shootout without a gun, or a firefighter to a fire without their turnout gear. So why are we seeing nurses and healthcare professionals die from COVID because they were sent into those rooms without protection?

Nurses have been taken advantage of for far too long, but we adapt because we must. It’s the nature of the beast we call US Healthcare and if you want to work here, you must comply. However, we rise and move forward because we love our jobs and are willing to do what it takes for our patients. Currently, most hospitals are out of PPE, while others are so low that they are reusing the suggested “one-time use only” equipment. One ventilator is being manipulated to breathe for several respiratory failure patients. The promise of more PPE and ventilators has not been fulfilled. The CDC has relaxed their guidelines so much, that nurses are using scarves and trash bags as protective equipment. Oh, and JACHO, let’s just say I haven’t heard a single statement from them since this all started.

We are living in one of the richest countries in the world!

How is it that we can’t protect the fighters and the front line workers? Why are we having to choose who lives and who dies because we don’t have enough staff or ventilators or PPE? It disgusts me that nurses and other healthcare professionals are getting sick and dying because we don’t have the proper equipment to protect ourselves! Our lives are being treated as though we are disposable, and the hospitals and our leaders aren’t doing anything about it. This is America, this is US Healthcare. This is beyond anything I thought I would ever have to face in my career or my life.

But despite all the fear, anxiety, and madness we are living with, we are still showing up for ourselves and our patients. I know most of us are feeling fortunate to have a job during this time, although bittersweet. I have seen my coworker steps up with such amazing grace and teamwork, I have seen the healthcare community unite with a smile on their face, ready to save lives! We have received food, gifts, masks, and other goods from small and large businesses to show their appreciation for the front line workers and in that I am thankful.

We look forward to these gestures

It’s in these uncertain times that we look forward to these gestures and the small things in life that can make all the difference in our day. I am continuously reminded of why I chose this career path and even though we’re all tired and nervous about what’s to come, we are putting that on hold for what we know how to do best: take care of our people. To those of you who aren’t essential workers right now, your work is still so important and essential, but please for the life of others and the healthcare community, wash your hands and stay inside – if not for yourself, for your parents, for your grandparents, for your children, and the world!

Here’s to nurses, doctors RTs, paramedics, firefighters, techs, EVS, and all front line workers who are working tirelessly through this time of uncertainty. I am proud of you; I am here for you and we will get through this together.

Do you have any tips or want to send messages to fellow front line workers during this time? Comment them below.

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