Sarah Flanagan, a 24-year-old acute care nurse, can’t believe she’s back here and working long hours in a Florida hospital overrun with coronavirus patients.
Countless people in need of care have been held in emergency room corridors for days. Flanagan’s hospital, which he asked not to be named due to safety concerns, is increasingly converting units to COVID-19 units. Almost all of these patients are unvaccinated, Flanagan said.
After these 18 months, health workers are fed up.
“We started losing personnel in waves and swarms,” he told HuffPost. “There really was a unit where the entire night shift decided ‘We’re done’.”
Flanagan said the hospital has seen its highest peak in COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, with patients more sick than ever and not enough nurses to help them.
Many nurses feel worn out, defeated, and frustrated by unvaccinated patients and not having enough staff to get around.
“You feel like what you’re doing isn’t enough. It’s so frustrating,” Flanagan said, adding that she’s currently struggling to find anything rewarding in nursing.
Nearly two years later, nurses are at breaking point
Of course, Flanagan isn’t the only nurse feeling tired and hopeless as coronavirus deaths continue to rise. And while some evidence suggests that new cases and hospitalizations are stabilizing at the national level, staff shortages exacerbated by the pandemic mean nurses in most parts of the country are unlikely to take a break anytime soon. In Florida, where Flanagan worked, 70% of hospitals There was a staff shortage during the summer.
“The pandemic is accelerating a broad trend that has been building for some time.” Joanne SpetzDirector and co-author of the UCSF Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies a study About the nursing shortages related to COVID, said in a press release earlier this month.
Spetz’s study found that California will face a significant nurse shortage of nearly 41,000 nurses through at least 2026 as older nurses retire, citing burnout and a desire to protect family members from the coronavirus. National estimates show US May face nursing shortages by 2030.
In many ways, this is a one-two punch: Nurses are stressed because they work hard and there aren’t enough nurses. They are also emotionally exhausted because many of the difficult cases they see can be prevented by vaccination. Between June and August, more than 98% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 were unvaccinated. Estimates from Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker.
“Looking at unvaccinated COVID patients frustrates me. “I think they’re getting beds for other patients,” said Patricia, 28, a traveling nurse who worked in New Jersey, South Carolina and Tennessee during the pandemic.
Patricia, who wanted to use only her first name for privacy reasons, added, “I’ve heard so many stories of patients dying because the ICUs were full.” “Even with my frustration, I can put my personal feelings aside and take care of my patients as best I can.”
Helping is in all of us – and in the system –
Things got bad enough in the last two months that Flanagan was considering quitting. He finds it devastating that in 18 months everything is worse than ever.
Combat is common: a survey He found that 81% of nurses aged 34 and younger said they felt exhausted and 71% said they felt overwhelmed. More qualitative research has also found feelings of inadequacy and helplessness among nurses during the pandemic.
“Every time I go to the hospital and I feel like there are fewer resources and fewer staff, I feel powerless and feel like it doesn’t matter what I do,” Flanagan said. “For the last two months, especially after hard shifts, I felt like I didn’t know how much longer I could stay by my bedside.”
The most heartbreaking thing, he added, is that when hospitals like his are overflowing with COVID-19 patients, he is unable to give anyone the time and care they deserve. Flanagan threw himself into the water. advocacy work seeks federal intervention to address nurse burnout and shared his experience on social media, that helped a bit. She has started going back to therapy and is taking medication to help manage her mental health.
Much of the change Flanagan and other nurses want to see must happen in their hospitals and by increasing the nation’s nursing workforce, which is not easy to make.
“We can’t graduate nurses fast enough, but even when they graduate, they’re often not ready to provide the level of care that is most needed right now,” says nursing educator Katie Boston-Leary. He told The New York Times last month.
But just because system-level changes are needed to ease the burden on nurses doesn’t mean everyone else is off the hook. Getting a COVID-19 and flu vaccine significantly reduces the risk of hospitalization, which reduces the pressure on hospitals and intensive care units. Early in the epidemic, too much focus was placed on roads individuals can help healthcare workerssuch as cooking for them, helping with childcare, or just reaching out for support. Now, many nurses feel forgotten, despite doing more than ever before.
“I want people to understand that we nurses are exhausted,” Patricia said. “This pandemic has hurt us in ways we can’t even imagine. We work extremely hard and get underpaid. Nurses are fed up with staff shortages and are quitting. We see death more than ever now. I invite everyone to check on their nurse friends and family members.”