I am a nurse. I am tired and defeated. Thursday, I went to work at 7 a.m. after the strike, only to want to leave as soon as I walked into the hospital. We were short-staffed … again. I made an “aware” which is a hospital forum where anyone can report unsafe staffing, hospital conditions, maintenance, or security issues. My aware went to my unit manager where we had a 30-minute conversation about my feelings and how disappointed I am in my leaders. The conversation made me send an email to the CEO and vice president. My co-workers heard and got to read my email and encouraged me to keep sharing my voice, so I hope my email comes into good hands. I want to make everyone aware that nurses are suffering and health care is on the brink of collapse. and I am asking for help spreading awareness.
Below is the email that I sent. I never got a reply.
I am a 22-year-old nurse, and all I ever wanted to be was a nurse.
Thursday was the worst day of my nursing career let me explain why. I have been in the medical field since I was 16. I’ve only ever wanted to be a nurse, I remember the day like it was yesterday. The day I wanted to be a nurse was the first day I’ve ever watched someone die. I was parasailing with my mom in the middle of the ocean when the captain had a heart attack. I performed CPR on him for over 15 minutes, just me, because no one else knew how to do it. I felt ribs cracked, I had blood and vomit all over me, and I watched this complete stranger take his last breath in my arms.
I went to become a CNA at a local nursing home, where I cared for moms, dads, grandpas, and grandmas. I’d watch their hearts break because their family didn’t come to see them. I held their hands as their soul left them because no one else was there but me. I wiped their butts, fed them food, listened to their stories, and washed their hair because I was only there to care for them. All I ever wanted to be was a nurse.
I started taking prerequisites for nursing school in high school. When I finally got to college, I applied for a scholarship, the scholarship asked one question: “Why do you what to be a nurse?”
I told them the story of watching that stranger die in my arms. The scholarship allowed me to focus on my passion because it helped pay for my tuition, and I helped assist teachers with educating students on the fundamentals of nursing. I joined many committees to be able to share my passion with other students and peers. All I ever wanted to be was a nurse.
I became a nurse intern, I learned what nurse I wanted to be and where I wanted to work as an RN. I did my final clinical on a stepdown unit in the fall; all I had was COVID patients. I listened to BiPAP alarms alerting and running in their rooms, realizing that the BiPAP is pumping air into a lifeless body. I listened to families sob on the phones because COVID didn’t allow them to say goodbye to their loved ones. All I ever wanted to be was a nurse.
I became an RN at the hospital in February full-time; I also became a home health nurse for a terminally ill 8-year-old boy part-time. Since February at the hospital, I have been verbally harassed, physically assaulted, and mentally abused by patients. But it’s OK because I am finally a nurse. I’ve taken 5 to 7 patients almost once a week since being a nurse, but it’s OK because I am finally a nurse. I started leaving work defeated after a long day of no support from my leaders and crying in my car still in the parking lot, but’s it OK because I am finally a nurse.
I had the privilege of loving an 8 year old during his final months. Seeing him was my escape from the hospital because I never left crying; I always wanted to go to work with him. I watched an 8-year-old boy die, and the next day I went back to work at the hospital for my shift, short-staffed, unsupported, and mourning a child. I cried in the bathroom for my lunch break, but it’s OK because I am finally a nurse.
After all the death I have seen since I was 16, the hateful words I’ve heard from patients, and the days short-staffed and struggling to keep my head up, nothing compares to Thursday. All I’ve ever wanted to be was a nurse.
Going through a strike is like going through a messy divorce. I didn’t think coming back from a three-day strike would be easy, but I didn’t know it would make me not want to be a nurse. Walking into the hospital and seeing everyone say “good morning” was the biggest slap in the face, and man, did it sting. Walking into my break room seeing that the travel nurses got free lunches hurt. Hearing that the hospital was paying them over double what I make and being overstaffed crushed me. During these three days that we went on strike, patients had more safety than I have ever given them since February. Leaders and hospital administrators were there 24/7 supporting the travel nurses, but we have had no support for their own employees. Everyone left as soon as we got there, with no support, no help, and no confidence. We were understaffed a day after the strike ended. Five patients for the nurses’ assignments. No free lunches, no extra pay for doing the job of two nurses. But I realized on Thursday that this isn’t OK just because I am finally a nurse.
The hospital ripped my passion for nursing away from me on Thursday. All I’ve ever wanted to be was a nurse. I have no faith in any hospital leaders or administrators. Thursday was the worst day in my nursing career. All I’ve ever wanted to be was a nurse, and I’m not done fighting for my passion yet.
The author is an anonymous nurse.
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