“I couldn’t understand why this highly educated and powerful trauma nurse became a patient.”
The registered nurse who asks to be called “Guy” is talking about herself. While working in the emergency department of her public hospital in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Guy began to cry inconsolably, unable to speak or function. She suffered a panic attack and was later admitted to a psychiatric hospital with a diagnosis of PTSD. Guy returned to the hospital bed as a hospice nurse.
A pandemic of suffering nursing
Guy is not alone. The number of nurses with mental health problems has grown significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. A survey by the International Council of Nursing (ICN) shows that the number of nurses reporting mental health problems since the start of the pandemic has increased from 60% to 80% in many countries.
“Nurses are suffering,” says ICN CEO Howard Cutton. He cites the brutal attacks “along with the exhaustion, grief and fear faced by nurses caring for patients.”
The American Nursing Foundation claims that one in three nurses indicate that they are “emotionally unwell.”
“ Normal systems break down ”
Nurses say the psychological stress stems from a multitude of challenges: the industry was already experiencing a shortage of staff prior to COVID-19, and many nurses were taking multiple jobs while caring for more and more patients. Now the recommended ratio is one nurse to two patients. increases in a ratio of 1 to 3, which is detrimental to both patients and nurses.
“Clara,” who has worked as a nurse, says she has to “face enormous workloads, enormous volumes and a lack of resources.” One wrong move can make the difference between life and death – and potentially ruin a career.
“It’s constant pressure on your shoulders, constant downward pressure, you have to move faster, you have to work better, you have to work harder,” she said.
Alex Kaspin suffered from overwork, overwork and overwork. She recently walked out of the emergency room in Philadelphia as COVID-19 numbers coincided with a rise in homicide in the city.
“At that moment,” says Kaspin, “all normal systems went out of order.” Kaspin says her hospital operated under “triage conditions.” It lacked nurses to care for patients in regular wards, so the emergency room was filled with inpatients and the waiting room became an emergency room.
“Please give me a vaccine now.”
With the rise in violence in the United States and an increase in the number of COVID-19 patients, Kaspin felt unable to provide medical care according to the standards she had set for herself, and the stress was exacerbated by patients who had not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
She is haunted by the memories of several COVID-19 patients over the age of 20. “The last thing they say is right before we lower the breathing tube. “I want a vaccine now. Please give me the vaccine now. ” ”
Pennsylvania resident Jen Partica describes vaccine hesitancy as a willful ignorance she has never seen in her 27 years as a nurse.
“You are deliberately creating a situation that I cannot keep up with as a nurse,” says Partika. She says she will always do her best for her patients, but when she finds out that they are not vaccinated, she feels differently: “You are deliberately harming others.”
Experts say vaccinating more people will significantly reduce the number of patients.
Chip Kahn is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federation of American Hospitals. He says there is no “short-term magic bullet”, but “less COVID” is needed.
No more support
Abigail Donley worked in the intensive care unit in Manhattan during the early stages of the pandemic. She left her job to co-found IMPACT in the healthcare industry to work on policy change for the benefit of workers and patients. The December IMPACT campaign contributes to improved personnel safety.
Donley says nurses were once considered heroes of COVID-19: “People broke pots for them at seven, but now they can’t get a raise,” Donley said on Skype. “They can’t get the bonus. They cannot get babysitting. They don’t have maternal health care. ”
More nurses are leaving hospital beds to cut tedious work schedules and increase pay. Nursing travel agencies send nurses to where they are needed to contain downsizing by offering salaries three times that of other nurses.
Michelle helped set up the COVID-19 ward at the hospital where she worked for 10 years. This month, she left her registered nurse at $ 30 an hour to work as a nurse in an intensive care unit in another city. She calls her new paycheck “crazy.”
“I am leaving this system and moving to the position of a nurse, and I will make $ 120 an hour,” she told Voice of America.
Kahn says agencies are “inflating” hospitals when they offer nurses such high salaries. He agrees that it is much better to have a strong internal team than temporary staff.
When asked why hospitals are not hiring veteran nurses while offering higher salaries and other benefits, Kahn replies, “No institution can afford to pay its broad base of nurses anywhere near what they pay for traveling nurses. … “