By Gloria Chadwick
So, you think that all the healthcare heroes are warriors and made to put their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, on the line time after time? A rude awakening will hit the healthcare system soon enough as it is complicated by the selfish people who demand their liberties and freedom to choose how to live and work.
Healthcare workers work in their chosen area by choice. They are not drafted into a job, conscripted to serve without choice. They choose their chosen field of expertise. Labor and Delivery nurses are not the same as Psych or ER nurses. We all chose to be where we work. I retired from Acute Care Psych at the VA. Treating our veterans with PTSD was expected due to the trauma they witnessed while in service. A service that they entered, or were drafted into, knowing that they could be in harm’s way and trained for that possibility. There is no expectation in Nursing schools that a nurse will be exposed to self-harm while administering treatment. Choices are later made by some to enter the military or minister aid to others in compromised countries where viruses, or war, may indeed jeopardize their life, but the vast majority of healthcare providers go about their jobs providing care and guidance to patients to make their lives healthier and better.
A hospital is its own universe where all individuals, top to bottom work towards the same goal, providing patient well-being and safety. To accomplish this, all healthcare workers and ancillary staff work as one huge team. They support one another. There are no outside politics, no red or blue. Racism, religious intolerance and sexual questioning are not allowed, not accepted and reason for dismissal. Addiction and behavioral challenges are accepted medical problems and given the same respect and care as other diseases. None of them signed up for the likes of a pandemic complicated by rebellious selfish individuals who ultimately will cause a recycling of the virus.
When the worst is past us, many of these loyal caregivers will assess their lives. Some will ask if they can stand the trauma of another outbreak. Some will be influenced by family members who cannot understand why they should be put in peril again. Some will agonize that they spread the virus, unintentionally, to family members and may have even suffered a loss of life. Some may have actually recovered from the virus and will decide if the risk of reinfection is worth it. Some may suffer PTSD and struggle with admission of their symptoms because of unfounded fear of termination or re-assignment or the stigma that they couldn’t handle the situation. Yes, healthcare workers and ancillary staff get PTSD. It’s the result of trauma and the pandemic has been more traumatic than any of them imagined they would see.
The ancillary workers can just as easily find rewarding work in other facilities. Think of the person who checks you in at the hospital, the simple act of doing insurance and personal data intake is now traumatizing for them as the patient is coughing spending more than 10 or 15 minutes doing the paperwork. Think of the cafeteria employee who is collecting the money, cleaning the counters and tables, or the maintenance worker who keeps the hospital humming along by working in the midst of everything that has been touched by employees and patients. They are all there by choice. Benefits are great but family and life are everything.
Healthcare providers train for multiple years to obtain their licenses to care for others. It is not a matter of online training lasting a few weeks or asking another occupation to simply step in and fill in a position. Experience cannot be purchased. Knowledge is learned and only hands on brings one up to speed.
Why do even bring this up? I remember the AIDS crisis and the nurses and staff that refused to care for those patients. They were afraid. You cannot be angry with people who are fearful, but you can be angry with those who put these good people in harm’s way. Not getting to go shopping or lay out at the beach is an embarrassing excuse for subjecting others to the perils of the virus.
When flu season comes and a call goes out because of healthcare shortages, remember the images of these selfish whiners with their signs, no masks and screaming their chants. But you know what? Healthcare will be there for them and they will be treated respectfully.
Gloria Chadwick is a board member for the Grossmont Healthcare District since 1988 and still a registered nurse.