COVID-19 has infected over 11.2 million in the U.S. and 248,000 have died (Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, 2020). We are not alone; globally 55.3 million have been infected and over 1.3 million have died (Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, 2020). Health care workers are faced with fighting an invisible foe that keeps on coming day after day. We don’t have a cure, we have few therapies that curtail symptoms, and we are waiting for the vaccine. We are heading into the peak season of influenza and many people who had put off care due to the pandemic are now at our doors with higher severity of illness and more complications. So, not only are we caring for complex COVID-19 patients, we are caring for complex patients with other conditions. We are exhausted, morally injured, and feeling burned out because the patients keep on coming! What makes matters worse, we hear from people that COVID-19 is not real; it’s a hoax. How can people ignore the science and evidence?
I listened this week to nurses and physicians from around the country who spoke about patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and the patients still
didn’t believe it. Even as they were being placed on higher level oxygen therapy and being intubated, they were still saying it was a hoax or they had “the flu, pneumonia, or cancer.” How can people ignore the evidence of refrigerator trucks for dead bodies? Can’t everyone see that our faces are lined with marks from wearing our masks for hours at a time? Can people see the fatigue as we trudge back and forth to the hospital or our practices? Can people see the tears in our eyes as another patient dies from this infection? Can people see the devastation in the eyes of the loved one’s who’ve lost family and friends to COVID?
How do we continue delivering care to those who continue to not wear a mask, say COVID-19 is a hoax and everyone is overreacting? First, we need to remember we have some of the brightest minds in medicine and nursing in this country. Even though some have been silenced or even lost their jobs because they spoke the truth, these are the people we need to continue to support. We must support the medical and nursing societies, publications, and mainstream media that speak the truth and present the evidence. We need to frame our discussions based on science and make examples of virus transmission understandable to everyone.
We understand that people have a right to believe in what they choose; but when those rights impinge on our liberties, we need to speak up. But let’s be clear, at the heart of who we are as nurses and what we do is caring. We will still care for people regardless of their belief that COVID is a hoax. We are used to caring for people in difficult times; think about the patients you’ve cared for who are angry, acting out or combative. Without a doubt, taking care of these patients is one of the most difficult things we do. As healthcare professionals, we deliver care without judgement. Our institutions and our colleagues need to support us as we are taking care of those patients and recognize that healthcare professionals may need a respite from caring for these patients.
Healthcare systems need to recognize that resiliency is and will be an even bigger issue than we anticipated as we continue through the COVID-19 surges. We will be experiencing the roller-coaster of COVID-19 for quite a while. All healthcare professionals need to feel valued and supported, not only now, but also into the future.
Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. (2020, November 17). Coronavirus Resource Center. Retrieved from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/