Erin Ermel is a Licenced Practical Nurse working at Regina General Hospital in Regina.
I have been on the frontlines of this pandemic from the beginning, when everyone was afraid, to now, when everyone is tired and burned out. My ward was the first COVID-19 Unit in our city, so I have seen loss, death, and recovery right from the beginning of this pandemic. Many things have changed along the way, but the one thing that remains unwavering for me is the pull to make a difference in this fight.
I’ve now worked on a COVID-19 Unit, our COVID-19 Testing Site, and am now part of the COVID-19 vaccination clinics. When the first wave hit and cases were minimal, we were so prepared that it left everyone feeling like this was something we didn’t need to fear. When the second wave hit and we realized the gravity of the situation we were dealing with, we were ready. Being over-prepared the first time gave us strength to work under pressure in conditions we had never seen before, safely. However, one of the mental challenges, was that some of the public was convinced that this was “just a flu.”
By the time this third wave hit, everyone was exhausted.
Now, it is no longer a matter of holding our heads above water;
it’s beyond that now. Now it is about holding the patients above water.
But we can’t do any of this alone. If the public doesn’t help us, we all drown.
When you become a nurse, you sign up for exactly what we have been doing this past year, every single time you go to work. The disease or illness itself isn’t what matters. What matters to us is helping our patients.
I think what I want people to understand most is that we aren’t heroes. This is what we do, it is what we have always done. COVID-19 is real, it’s not “just a flu” and every death is one that shouldn’t have happened. We have never had a choice in turning our back on this and because of who we are, we faced it head on with powerful determination. We haven’t given up, so please don’t give up either!
The COVID-19 pandemic brought a host of burdens with it that we can’t shake:
a burden of public disbelief of what our patients are really suffering with;
a burden of seeing and watching this disease take people faster than anything we’ve ever known in our time; a burden of frustration because a lot of the people we once thought cared and supported us, now believe they have the right to judge, and
what they say deeply offends us; and
a burden of watching patients and families suffer from this beast of a disease and then having to deal with negativity and hate from strangers.
I am a born empath and that’s what hurts my heart the most. That’s what keeps me up at night.
The anxiety and helplessness of wishing those who don’t believe this is real, suddenly had a lightbulb moment.
I am acutely aware of how divided the world has become and how our profession has been targeted by some.
I want you to know that every COVID-19 nurse has walked into the path of this virus unwavering.
Our commitment to care for our sickest patients is still there, even though we are all burned out physically and emotionally.
We have fought, and will keep fighting it, in whatever professional capacity we can, until this is over. We have been the light in the darkest days of patients’ lives because we were born to care for people. We do this naturally. We aren’t super heroes; we were born to care for people. And when this is all over, we will still be here, doing the same thing we have done every day.
One day this will be history. And we will all share with our children and grandchildren what it was like to live through a pandemic. I am so proud to know that I am just one person in a sea of so many who helped make a difference during this historic event. I hope that everything I have been handed, and everything I have done, and sacrificed has made a difference.
Please help us. Regardless of your beliefs,
choose to be a light in this darkness. Help us all not to drown. Stay safe.