A Pandemic’s Toll Reaction: Rural Primary Care Pediatric NP

My role hasn't changed, but my workload has... I felt burnout looming with no light at the end of the tunnel.
nurse suiting up for covid patients

I wish I could say that I am surprised by the NurseGrid Pandemic Survey results, but unfortunately, I am not. I am not surprised that nurses aren’t happy in their jobs, they are burnt out, and some are considering leaving their current job or changing careers altogether. Nursing is a demanding profession to begin with, and then add a pandemic with so many uncertainties into the mix, burnout is unavoidable.

As an outpatient nurse practitioner, I have a slightly different perspective of the pandemic.

  • I agree that my role hasn’t changed during the pandemic, but my workload has. Half of my office staff was furloughed, including the other provider with whom I share responsibilities. The date for bringing my colleagues back kept changing, so I felt burnout looming with no light at the end of the tunnel. It took over three months to reinstate the entire staff. Now, with patients continuing to socially distance and the patient load decreasing, it feels that my job is no longer secure.
 
  • At the beginning of the pandemic, the lack and rationing of PPE did not spare outpatient clinics. We were given five N-95 masks. Unfortunately, we do not have rapid testing available, so I wouldn’t know if I came into contact with a COVID patient for three to five days after the encounter. Additionally, the hospital did not provide eye protection or gowns until several months into the pandemic. Similar to the N-95 masks, the hospital had to ration the eye protection and gowns. I do have more concerns about providing quality care to my patients. Telemedicine has been vital during the pandemic; however, it decreases the quality of care. Working in pediatrics, I cannot listen to lungs, check ears, or get an accurate weight for medication dosing. If a patient did have COVID, it was challenging to tell them to use supportive care until they were too sick and needed to go to the hospital. My goal is to keep my patients out of the hospital, and I feel like I have no control over that anymore.
 

Overall, even though I am not surprised by these survey results, I still feel like the nursing profession is defeated. We were already battling against a shortage of nurses and unsafe patient ratios. Adding pandemic burnout on top of the normal burnout will change the world of nursing for the foreseeable future. It is increasingly disappointing to see my fellow nurses struggling. Nurses don’t join the profession under the impression their career will be easy, we know it will be challenging, but I don’t think anyone thought it would be this demanding. 

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