I know I speak for many nurses right now when I say we just don’t get it. We don’t get how, after 18 straight years of the Gallup poll deeming us the profession with the highest honesty and ethics, you don’t believe us when we recommend that you take precautions against COVID-19.
We don’t get it because you’re used to taking other health advice from us: to stop smoking, to lose weight, to wear your seat belts, to put your children in car seats, to take your medicine as directed, etc. I’ve been a nurse for over 20 years, and rarely does anyone argue with me over any of those things. But when we advise you to wear a mask and to socially distance because of COVID-19, you tell us we’re lying and spreading fake news.
Do we look like political operatives to you? Most of us are women you know, like your mothers, your daughters, sisters, aunts and cousins (and some men, too). You see us taking care of your children in their schools, taking care of your elderly loved ones in nursing homes, caring for your friends in the local clinic or hospital. We’re not outsiders promoting a political agenda — we’re nurses in your own community telling you what to do to protect your health and ours.
And we’re really tired right now. We’re tired from risking our health in this pandemic. From working long hours back when we didn’t know how contagious COVID-19 might be, from when we were re-using personal protective equipment, from when we were worried about infecting our families. Tired from wearing hazmat suits and goggles now to take care of COVID-19 patients, from being the only ones holding their hands when they die. Tired from being the ones who have to tell loved ones that they can’t visit, and from having to call them and break bad news over the phone.
Of course, that’s what we nurses do every day. Earlier in the pandemic, back when this all started, you called us heroes. You banged pots for us every evening for weeks on end, thanked us for our service. That was really nice, and we very much appreciated it, but it’s a hollow gesture if you’re not going to help us turn the corner on the COVID-19 pandemic now. So please, don’t tell us how much you admire what we do. Show us your respect by not becoming one more of our COVID-19 patients.
Trust us when we say maintaining social distance, meeting with others in outdoor settings or in very small groups is the safest thing to do — that Christmas this year can’t involve getting together in person with those we love. We know that means changing your lives significantly when we’re all worn out by those changes. But that’s what we all have to do to win against this thing.
Yet our advice falls on deaf ears for some of you. You tell us you’re willing to risk getting COVID-19. But most of you don’t know what you’re talking about. We do. For those of you who are overweight, have high blood pressure, diabetes or respiratory problems, we know getting COVID-19 won’t be without potentially serious consequences.
I had someone who wasn’t wearing a mask tell me recently that COVID-19 is a hoax. Really? I wish he were with me to help explain that to the patients who come into my hospital’s ER too late, whose breathing is so bad we have to put them on ventilators. To the young essential workers now in my hospital’s ICU who’ve spent weeks on life support machines and who, if they’re lucky and finally get well enough to leave the hospital, will have weeks or months more at a rehabilitation facility to get their lives back, if they can. It’s not a hoax to them or their families. It’s a very grim reality.
So, please believe us when nurses warn you about COVID-19. We have seen the worst. And we’re just trying to keep it from happening to you.
Marian Grant (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives in Reisterstown.