Moderator Pick
November 30th, 2020

Resilience is not enough anymore - or maybe mine is just wearing thin

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was one of the more vocal community members. I gathered other crafty friends and began a mask making initiative, read and shared articles from reliable sources, and was tentatively hopeful about the pandemic’s ability to unite what was an increasingly divided community. That is how I managed my stress then, and as I make masks for the sanitation workers around town, that is how I manage my stress now.

I did not expect the politicization amongst the community to bleed into my workplace. I never expected to be treating patients that didn’t believe in the very illness that was killing them, and I now wonder if that was naïveté on my part. I have greatly pulled away from social media and the news and find myself reading more books instead.

I went into nursing to help people, and I foster resilience by telling myself that that is what I am doing: living by my values. However, it is tiring to come into work and feel endangered. It is hard to read articles that talk about healthcare workers as though we are just another resource with the unfortunate side effect of being mortal. What is most difficult is knowing that by helping the sick, I am also putting immunocompromised and at risk people that live with me in danger. I manage those feelings by allowing myself to have them, and by checking in with my coworkers who I know are having similar feelings. There is a commiserative schadenfreude in knowing I’m not alone in getting tired.

I am grabbing onto my support network like a life raft and holding tight. I’m going through the motions of what I know myself to believe in - making masks, making kits for the impoverished, and making sure my loved ones and dog feel nurtured and loved. Like Mr. Rogers advised - I am looking for the helpers, and I am trying to be one myself. But, as the post holiday surge approaches, there is a fugue and resignation that wasn’t there before and I am very, very afraid of it.

Tags: Burnout, COVID 19, Family support, Managing stress, Mindfulness

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Comments (5)

Comments (5)

" It is hard to read articles that talk about healthcare workers as though we are just another resource with the unfortunate side effect of being mortal"

During this year, I have been so aware of the duality of intention and meaning.

We ARE Human Resources.
That can be interpreted as "we are resources that are expendable, replaceable cogs in the machine."

It can also be interpreted as "we are the most valuable, elemental resource that there is". Without the human resources, vaccines stay in vials, beds are empty, ventilators are useless hardware, and people truly die alone.

As leaders, we have the opportunity and capacity to help frame this, and similar dualities for our colleagues~ in a way that equally acknowledges the pain and the power.

PS, Sending up so much gratitude to Mr. Rogers, and his simple wisdom

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Hello, Elena~
Thank you so much for having the courage to be so honest about feeling like you are at the verge of running out of resilient steam.
I love your term "commiserative schadenfreude". And want you to know that you are very much not alone.
This pandemic has gone on for so long, and promises to shape our lives for several more months (acutely~ and for years in the psycho-social-spiritual-economic future of the planet). I think that even those of us with mad skills in terms of resilience are just so tired. Many of us on the front lines are sharing that feeling... wondering where the energy is going to come from to persevere... shift by shift... hour by hour... to continue to serve. I have spoken with many nurses who are fearful that the bottom is going to fall out in terms of staffing~ both from frontline staff contracting the virus, and from burned-out nurses leaving the field.

I think that many folks fall into the daily grind~ just seeing the challenge of each day~ each moment~ and lose sight of the miraculous, poignant, valiant, courageous effort to which each and every one of us in the nurse-force is contributing. I have gained no small amount of solace and strength from simply acknowledging the momentousness of this effort. Acknowledging the commitment of the nurse-force. Acknowledging the dedication and teamwork that I see every day.

"Feeling endangered"
Thanks, too, for being honest about this. I am so fortunate to work in an environment where I feel that my colleagues and the administration care to keep us all well, and, mercifully, we have had great support in terms of staffing and supply chain. Basically, I have felt relatively well-protected. But I know that feeling~ when I have been off for a few days~ sheltered in place~ and the sun is coming up as I drive towards the hospital~ and I am filled with the awareness that I am moving towards a place that I know houses a high concentration of people who are harboring the virus.

Personally, I have gotten some solace from the vaccine effort. For the first time this year, I have allowed myself to imagine that this thing will finally have a shape~ that it won't be a never-ending nebulous growing force of destruction~ but that the potential for it to be reigned-in is there.

Again, Elena, thank you soo much for your candor. Thank you for all that you do. And thank you for who you are.

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So true, Elena, that caring for people who doubt the seriousness or the reality of this illness is extremely demoralizing. I, along with many others, I assume, have a few of these folks within my personal circle as well. I have found myself pulling away from them a little bit (as much as one can pull away from texts and phone calls); it hurts to think that everything I've seen in front of me day after day at work is apparently "fake new" to people who otherwise love and care about me.

I wish you all the best as we move further into the holiday season, with the uncertainty it brings this year. I think we are all going to find sources of strength and resilience within us that we never knew we had. Just wish we were not in a situation where this was necessary to begin with.

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Hi Elena:

Thanks for joining our conversation.

I am always surprised -- shocked? dismayed? -- by stories of people who are dying of the disease but still refuse to believe it's real.

Tell us more about your support network. Was it always there? Did you have to create one? How do the members help you?

I'm wondering whether there is a lesson to be shared here to help others create the support network they need.

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I am diving more deeply into my prayer life as a strength. Finding and sharing the inner power that comes only from faith. It is not easy and some days are tough but my coworkers are a wonderful resource and together we lift one another up.

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