Why did it take me a global pandemic for people to start appreciating what my coworkers and I do every day? Do not make me a martyr, I'm simply doing my job. The President is calling himself a wartime President. Thousands call us heroes for trying to stay alive during a public health fiasco. Soldiers know that their death is a possibility. Healthcare workers do not take that oath. The oath I took was to give my patient the best possible treatment that I possibly can. Our oath is help others. If we get sick or die from a preventable disease then we have failed our promise to the public.
It is dangerous for us and the profession to frame our work in terms of war. Our enemy is a string of RNA who cares nothing about our country, politics, or if you're the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Wars are political. Pandemics are science. We need to deflect the hero talk and demand proper protection from the virus. If that can’t be done then we need to withhold care. That may sound harsh but it does no good for a healthcare worker to needlessly get sick. A sick healthcare worker only adds to the healthcare burden.
I'm worried for what will happen when we are no longer in the public eye and are forgotten about. When this role as martyr becomes expected of us and when conditions worsen people will no longer listen because it is old news. I think it’ll be the same thing that happened after 9/11. The cops, the military, and especially the firefighters were all heroes and applauded like crazy. Then 15-20 years down the line they’re sick (PTSD and all that comes with it, cancers related to exposure to fumes, traumatic brain injuries from combat, etc) and no one is lining up to help them pay their bills when they are too sick to work or make sure they have access to treatment. We need to start preparing for that as tired and overworked as everyone is right now.
I'm not a soldier, I didn't sign up to die. I have family and loved ones that worry about me everyday. You can't force or compel me to care for people that I don't want to under bad conditions. I will fight any redeployment to dangerous areas. I'd rather get hurt and be out on short term disability than go at this point. My hospital is taking good care of employees but you'd better believe that if I didn't the proper protections, I would leave. I can't get myself or my family sick and I can't care for someone if I'm dead.
If I get sick or die due to a lack of PPE, I don’t want it to be painted that the enemy was COVID-19. My enemy is the general public for failing to uphold social isolation and the US Government for failing to respond to the situation appropriately. My hospital administration literally had to scramble together to have masks mass produced practically overnight because patients and patient family members broke into supply rooms and stole a majority of our N-95s.
If this is a war, it’s a civil war. This entire post encapsulates the anger I’ve been feeling every time I’ve seen the heroes sentiment or the war analogies. None of us signed up for this. We are not casualties; we are victims, and we are being failed by our country and President.
Do you want to help healthcare workers? Advocate for us. California is the only state in the US that has fixed patient to nurse ratios. I used to work at a nursing home. Every night, it was one nurse and me responsible for 60 patients. It's totally legal for governments to do that. Also don't steal the equipment my coworkers and I so desperately need. If you're that scared, just stay home. If you see someone at a grocery store or pharmacy in scrubs, mind your own business. My hospital has told all employees to not wear scrubs in public as so many healthcare workers are being assaulted or accosted. I shouldn't have to teach anyone public decency. Who do you think is going to run your ventilator Karen?