Throughout the past two and a half years, I have often heard the following quote attributed to Fred Rogers:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”
As nurses and advanced practice nurses, we are the helpers; we are the ones who people look to (and for) in scary times, during disasters, emergencies, illnesses, and while incurring hardships.
What we often forget is that we, too, need support; a hand to guide us, a kind word at the end of a challenging shift, a co-worker to assist with a complex patient or situation. We have faced unprecedented trials and tribulations over the last two-plus years since the COVID-19 pandemic first began.
From the worst staffing shortages seen in our field, to the crushing isolation faced by our sickest patients, to feeling as if we no longer had tools in our baskets of tricks to treat and fix our patients. We have fought a very hard battle.
Here is what I do know: We have had a nation behind our chosen field; we are seen as the caregivers, the helpers, the ones by the sides of the sickest of the sick, at the hardest of times. While we may be exhausted, drained, and weary, look at all we have accomplished in the past year.
Here are some things I would love for you to remember when you are in your 12th hour of what may seem like a never-ending shift, when you have admitted your third patient of the night and you have yet to take a break:
- Be kind to your coworkers, to your patients, their families, but most of all, to yourself. Recognize how amazing the work is that you do. You are a hero, and I am proud of you.
- Know when you need to take a break. Burnout happens, especially during a global pandemic. Recognize when a day off truly needs to be a day of rest, with no errands on the agenda, and all you do is watch a favorite show and have a warm cup of coffee by your side.
- Frustration happens. It is ok to have moments of frustration, when you feel as if you cannot get ahead or fix your patients, or help in the way you would like to. Realize you cannot be the answer to all of the problems. Take a deep breath and see how much you have assisted and supported those who rely on you.
- Nursing is intense, brutal, and tough. It is also wonderful, rewarding, special, satisfying and worthwhile at the same time.
I am proud of all you have accomplished in 2022. As nurses, we have chosen to help, uplift, and most of all care. I can see 2023 on the horizon and the best is yet to come.
Elizabeth M. Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW