I write today with a sore right arm. My arm though is sore from the best possible thing it could ever be sore from and that is from my 2nd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As I studied NurseGrid’s survey results on A Pandemic’s Toll on Nurses I couldn’t help but feel most surprised at how many nurses reported discomfort at receiving the vaccine. I’d felt this same surprise when talking about it with my coworkers in the large adult emergency department where I work. Many nurses expressed anxiety about taking the vaccine and some chose to “wait and see” how other people responded to it before getting it themselves. Yes, the vaccine was created quickly, yes anything new is scary but isn’t COVID scary? Haven’t we seen people die from COVID? Haven’t we seen patients come back to our emergency department time and time again because of this horrible virus called COVID? I got my vaccine with excitement and without any doubt in my mind that it was the right thing to do.
I think though that for some nurses, trepidation regarding the vaccine is multifactorial. As the survey so clearly laid out and has been so clear in our workplaces, we, the nurses, are worn down, tired, fed up, burned out. We’ve been holding onto hope for so long. Back in March, this thing called COVID was supposed to be quick, done by summer, fall at the latest, Christmas we’d be back to normal. But now I and 53% of my nurse colleagues surveyed are either mostly or very confident in caring for COVID-19 patients because it has become so normal. And we’re tired of this new normal.
The burnout rates revealed through the survey struck me. 61%, more than half of the surveyed nurses expressed concern of burnout. I know the feeling. I had days this fall when I woke up in the dark early hours before work with raw fear gnawing at the pit of my stomach. Fear that I wouldn’t be able to handle whatever was thrown at me. Fear that I just couldn’t do it. I’d walk through the heavy gray back entrance door of our department and just offer the day up to God – something that’s become a habit for me now. This fear brought back memories of the almost year-long crisis of confidence I felt when I first began nursing, back when I was new and inexperienced. I don’t think that all of my gnawing fear was from COVID – some of it just had to do with working in a crazy busy adult emergency department. But the staff shortages we’d been (and still are experiencing) which make the workday harder have been at least partly due to COVID.
I appreciated the statistical detail of NurseGrid’s article “A Pandemic’s Toll on Nurses” and the holistic approach towards the wellbeing of nurses that NurseGrid highlighted. Though the report seems bleak regarding the current physical, mental, and emotional state of nurses, I can’t help but feel hope. We’ve been waging this war for almost a year now and we’re going to win. We have to. We’re distributing a vaccine now, we are more experienced in this virus than we’ve ever been, and the support I’ve felt from my fellow nurses despite the fatigue of us all has never been greater. I’ll never forget one of my nursing professors starting off her course by proclaiming “Nursing is a team sport.” I wrote that down and have never forgotten it. Every one of us nurses is a team member in this fight and together we will win.