Fear is something we know all too well during the time of COVID-19. We hear stories of healthcare workers risking their lives every day with the hopes to save lives of those who have been effected by COVID-19. However, there are still many other health conditions that need to be addressed, pandemic or no pandemic. Terri O’Connor, a pre-admission testing nurse, is able to give a unique perspective on how the pandemic has affected her workplace, her patients, and her life outside of being a healthcare worker.
“One day there was buzz about a virus and then we realized this one is different, we are going to have to do things differently,” Terri states while reflecting back on the beginning days of COVID-19. Once the realization and the reality of the pandemic set in Terri found herself face to face with the unknown. She found herself asking, “Do our patients have COVID? Do I have COVID? Is surgery worth the risk of potential exposure?” Just like Terri, many of her patients had the same questions. Terri found herself in a position where she was now also providing emotional support to her fearful patients.
The fear of the unknown soon became a fear of death, not just for Terri, but also for the patients she was serving and their families. Even though Terri did not work directly on a COVID unit, she still experienced the heaviness of the pandemic, “We would listen to code blues go off far more than usual. You may not be right there, but you are aware of what is going on.” Despite all of Terri’s own feelings about the pandemic she continued to put on a brave face and show up for everyone around her.
Terri explains how she was not just a rock for her patients and their families but also for her own family, “At work I would spend all my time trying to alleviate the patients’ fears and then I would go home and try to do the same for my family.” Terri explains that her family are her main support, yet she was mindful about not feeding into their fears and worries, which lead her to also finding support from her peers. Terri explains why talking with peers was so important by stating, “Unless you are inside the doors of a hospital during the pandemic it is difficult to explain what is going on.”
Despite the chaos of the pandemic Terri found herself feeling fortunate, “I feel lucky that I did not have to experience the type of trauma the frontline nurses are experiencing.” From a few conversations with nurses on the frontlines, Terri was able to express the great need for mental health services within the nursing community, “Many nurses describe responding to the COVID-19 pandemic similar to a warzone. Nurses are already experiencing symptoms of PTSD and are in great need of mental health services.” Just like Terri, the HEAL Program recognizes the need for support within the Healthcare field. If you or someone you know is a healthcare working, please know that you are not alone. The HEAL team is here for you by phone, 833-416-8773, 7 days a week from 8am-8pm.