'Dear Health Care Employees:' It's time to take off the cape and just be you
By Brittany Reiling, Clinical Coordinator, Physical Therapy
Dear health care employee,
It’s been a heck of a year. A few months into the year, you completed what you likely thought was the hardest year of your career. You made it through a global pandemic! I mean, seriously, dust your hands off and pat yourself on the back because nobody saw that one coming!
COVID-19 numbers appeared to be dropping. More people were getting vaccinated. You could take OFF your mask for short periods of time at work! And, the outside world vaguely started to resemble a life you once knew. Better things were coming!
Then the summer hit and it hit hard. It knocked you down when you were just starting to feel good about life again. Masks were back on again for everyone. It seemed like on a daily basis, that little alert in the bottom right hand of your computer screen popped up to inform you that the hospital was on, “High Census Alert.” RSV came in with a vengeance followed by COVID making a whirlwind of an appearance again.
The truth is you’re burned out. For a year, you were praised as “heroes,” for working in the health care industry. You felt support and love from those you did and didn’t know. Work was hard, but that love and support kept you flying and moving forward.
While that “hero” status helped to keep you going for a while, the truth is, your cape is now tattered and worn. While that cape is thinning, putting it on feels like wrapping the weight of the world around your shoulders. Now that the vaccine has become mandatory, you watched some of your coworkers choose to move on. You’re sad to lose your coworkers and scared of what looks like to become even shorter staffed. After all, the world is depending on you.
Health care employee, I want you to know, that you are seen and heard. Nurses and doctors, we see you stretching yourselves thin, being “floated” to areas of the hospital you never work in because staffing is low and the census is high. Respiratory therapists, we know you are feeling the stress of an unprecedented summer that mixed RSV, flu and COVID-19 all into one. We also know that the heaviness of this season weighs on more than just you all.
We see you, environmental services staff, being asked to quickly turn over and disinfect rooms that were occupied by our sickest of patients. Food services, we see you whipping up more meals for patients than you ever have before. Chaplains and child life specialists, we see you holding the hands of parents and patients who can’t have their support system with them due to visitor restrictions, comforting them during their darkest hours. Rehab, we see you working to rehab patients to their fullest potential, and know it weighs on you as see how the world has weighed so heavy on these children already, and note their current condition is truly adding injury to insult.
We hear you in our financial support departments as you comfort parents that cry to you because they lost their job and insurance due to Covid, and don’t have the funds to pay for their child’s treatment. We hear you schedulers and office staff, trying to calm parents of children whose COVID tests came back positive, and are now being asked to reschedule appointments they have been waiting for. Managers, we hear you offering to fill in a shift because your staff is struggling to stay afloat with the high census.
Communications department and command center, we see you as you receive the first news of new mandates that you know will cause a ripple of emotions throughout the system. Administration and legal teams, we see you as you make the decision to mandate vaccines, knowing this would lead to some employees that you truly admire and cherish, deciding to leave.
We know none of this is what you expected. Nobody went into the health care industry expecting to face this type of challenge. We know it all may feel unfair, and you know what, you might just be right.
Now another winter approaches and the unknown of what that season holds for all of us.
Here is what we pray for you. We pray you will take off the weathered cape that lies on your back, and that you will hang it up. The truth is, while we need you, you do not have to be a hero. You, in fact, are allowed to just be human. You are allowed to feel tired and beat up. You are allowed to struggle when your alarm goes off, telling you it’s time for work. Perhaps, if you remove these “hero” capes, and stop fighting for the world, you will feel all the emotions that come with being human. And if you can do this, maybe you will also begin to feel the simple joys that come with your jobs.
You will again feel the joy that comes when a patient “rings the bell” at their last chemotherapy treatment. You will again smile (even if behind a mask) when a parent instinctively comes in for a hug after hearing good news! You will feel your spirits lift when you see a child that has been too sick to eat, take a bite of food you just delivered, a sure sign the child is turning the corner. Perhaps, when you are talking to a parent on the phone, your ears will pick up on the laugh of their son in the background, and you will feel hope again, knowing the child was recently hospitalized and is now doing well! Perhaps, your eyes will again see past injuries and pain and will see the miracles unfolding in front of your eyes as a child learns to walk again. Maybe, you will feel the joys that come with leading a health care community that is truly one of a kind!
So to each of you health care employees, we pray for you to take off your cape. We know life hasn’t been easy for quite some time. But we want you to know, we don’t need you to be our heroes anymore. We just need you to be you. To be genuinely human. For, it is not “superheroes” that restore our hope in humanity, it is humans. And while you may experience some of our lows with us, we also want you to celebrate our highest of highs with us, and not flying a thousand feet above us all, but down here. On earth with us. Arm in arm. Hand in hand. Hugging and cheering as we forge on in this thing we call life!