by Peter Lozinski
Working on this week’s issue, I took a few minutes to reflect on the nurses I know in my life.
Without exception, they’re among the most caring, dedicated people I know. But they’re tired. They’ve been tired for a while.
But this last wave is worse. I’ve been seeing posts on social media, and they’re more tired. They’re sharing that message louder. They’re fed up with people not listening.
While our physicians are vital, so are our nurses. In fact, most care you will get in a health care system will be at the hands of a nurse. Without them, there would be no health care system. Without them, there would be no care.
It’s been a little over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. I was incredulous last week when I heard an actual news reporter ask why they couldn’t just have more staff in the province’s ICUs.
It’s not that simple. Nursing itself requires education, training and experience. Nursing in critical care — in ICUs, in cases where people need higher levels of care — even more so.
Those nurses deal with the tragic loss of COVID-19 every day while exhausting themselves to help those who do survive to make it through.
Then they go home, but just like you and me, can’t gather with friends. Can’t go to a barbecue. They too have to stay home and go without the social things we used to do to unwind after a brutal week at work.
They’re being asked to sacrifice even more than any of us.
Next week we celebrate National Nursing Week. We also celebrate Mother’s Day.
My mom is a nurse.
I’ve written about this before, but growing up when I didn’t have school and mom couldn’t find a sitter, I’d go with her to the hospital. She isn’t on a critical care unit. She’s on a rehabilitation floor, meaning it’s the place you go after your knee or hip surgery or stroke but before you can be sent home.
Things changed for my mom after the pandemic. For the first time in years, she was moved to a different unit. Her work is a little different, but just as vital. She’s a nurse in charge, so she helps make sure things run smoothly so the nurses responsible for patient care can do just that without having to worry about who’s coming in or out and what they need, or what patients they’re looking after on any particular day.
And while she’s not in critical care, I can’t help but worry about my mom. She’s in a hospital sandwiched between multiple municipalities labelled by the Ontario government as COVID-19 hot zones. She’s been vaccinated (thank goodness) but I worry about stress and workload too. She’s working weekends now, and that means it’s harder for us to connect through video chat.
I haven’t seen her since Christmas 2019. Once I too have both my vaccines in my arm, the first thing I’ll do is hop on a plane so I can see her again.
She talks about the situation in her hospital sometimes. More is being asked of everyone, including non-clinical staff — as specialized employees such as doctors and nurses are being sent to the areas of most need.
It’s like calling up your reservists during a war and sending them to the frontlines because you’ve used up all your regular soldiers.
Pages 15-22 in this week’s Thursday paper are dedicated to National Nursing Week, celebrated from May 10-16 during the week of Florence Nightingale’s birthday. The first few pages are about saying thank you, which we should always do for our frontline staff, but in this moment, it’s even more important.
That thank you will be welcomed. A bouquet of flowers or a thank you card or whatever you can do to show your appreciation will go a long way.
But at the end of the day, those are just words. The second part of our section is about nurses who are on the frontlines, highlighting what they’re battling every day in this moment in history.
Those thank yous are important, but without action, those words are meaningless. The more we choose not to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19, the higher risk we create for our community, and the more work we put on our taxed nurses.
Say thank you this week, but also remember to do your part to slow the spread of COVID-19. Get vaccinated. Wear a mask when in public. Minimize your trips to the grocery store and wash your hands.
Keep yourself and those around you healthy. Thank our nurses by not adding to their load. The best gift you can give nurses this week is the gift of health. The province is about halfway through its vaccination plan. A little while longer and we can gather again without risking a trip to the emergency room. But until then, we don’t want to push our exhausted nurses any further than we already have. They’ll be there for you when you need them, but right now, they need us to be there for them. They’d much rather see you cheering them on from the safety of your own home than from the confines of an ICU bed.