Nurses Share Their Pandemic Experiences, Two Years Later

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Much has changed in the past two years since the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the world — vaccines and boosters are helping people stay safe and healthy, mask mandates are changing, and a hybrid work culture is becoming the norm. But what has life been like for those working on the frontlines? How has the world changed for those who have never skipped a beat to prioritize the safety of others? Nurses, especially, have taken on so much and have played an essential role in keeping everyone safe and healthy. CircleAround spoke with several nurses across the U.S. to hear their stories and to learn how they are feeling now, two years after the pandemic began. 

1Humanity Is Fickle

“So many times during the pandemic, I saw people change their behaviors and beliefs when it felt like death (COVID-19) was knocking on their front door. The minute the threat was lessened to them, but not necessarily others, they would return to ways that once put them at risk, or would remain a risk toward others.” 

- Alice Benjamin, Chief Nursing Officer and Correspondent for Nurse.org

2Not Getting To Say Goodbye

“It was heartbreaking to see patients scared and alone in the hospital. Sometimes family members would have to make end-of-life decisions over the phone with the doctor. I had patients who were actively dying from COVID were but unable to see their loved ones in their last hours.

Typically, on COVID units there is less staff available because the hospital doesn’t want to risk exposing more staff than necessary. A 12-patient unit might only have two nurses and one nursing aid, so if multiple call lights are ringing at once, there might not be someone at the station to answer the phone. 

One day while I was assigned to the COVID unit, I took a call from a patient’s distraught family member. She told me that no one picked up her phone calls the day before, so she was worried that her mother had died. 

The patient had dementia, and her cellphone had run out of battery, so her daughter had been unable to reach her that way. I gladly relayed that her mother was in very stable condition. She let out a huge sigh of relief and said she couldn’t thank me enough for just letting her know that her mom was okay. I asked her if she wanted me to call her back from the phone in her mom’s hospital room so they could talk, and she started crying and said ‘I’m allowed to? I didn’t know we can talk to them.’ That really broke my heart.”

—Blair Holston, 27, RN in Richmond, Virginia

3Community Prevention Is a Personal Responsibility

“It is time for people to wake up and seriously consider that they need to take initiative and take responsibility for their health, as well as their actions. Take lifestyle interventions seriously, make any and all needed changes to improve the quality of your health and life. The health care system is long overdue to start promoting prevention.”  

—Sara and Anastasia Prech, RNs and Board Certified Nurse Coaches (NC-BC)

4Health Care Worker Equity Is Lacking

“Direct Care workers are the unsung heroes that put their lives at risk, as well as their families during the entire pandemic. However, they don’t get applauded for their sacrifice like the U.S. servicemen, firefighters, and police officers. In most cases, they are not even provided a living wage — which is not only unfair, it is unconscionable.” 

Charronne Jones, Owner of Aamira Home Care 

5Unexpected Things Became Politicized

“It was disgusting to see how masks and treatments were politicized and extorted as if they were more harmful than good. It was shocking to see radical groups form and support self-serving information that endangered the health of others. At times people acted like animals — fighting over food and wearing masks, and the mistrust in health care and health disparities (which were already preexisting) became even more prevalent.”

Alice Benjamin, Chief Nursing Officer and Correspondent for Nurse.org

6The Spread of Misinformation Is Still a Huge Threat

“During the pandemic, as a health care provider trying to combat disinformation and misinformation, I was weary, especially when politicians, celebrities, and other talking heads fumbled important messages to their massive followings. During this time, it also reminded me how powerful the media is when it comes to communicating to the masses, especially when access to health care providers was scarce unless you were severely ill. This was the No. 1 reason why I spent so much time contributing to educate the public.” 

Alice Benjamin, Chief Nursing Officer and Correspondent for Nurse.org

7Always Show Your Appreciation

“Since the pandemic, I’ve noticed patients and their family members taking the time to personally thank me during my shift a lot more. It really means a lot to me when patients tell me themselves that they appreciated me. It lets me know that I was actually able to make a difference to someone, rather than just clock in and clock out. It’s all about that human connection. And yes, you can send us doughnuts to our break room, we will always love and appreciate that as well. Kidding.” 

—Blair, 27, RN 

The Bottom Line

While it’s been over two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, its effects are still felt largely throughout the world, especially within the nursing community. It’s important to hear their perspectives and show appreciation for their hard work, sacrifice, and determination, because our lives would be much less fulfilling without them.

Tags: health, Navigating the Pandemic

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Written By

Katka Lapelosová

Katka is a writer from New York City, currently living in Belgrade, Serbia. See Full Bio

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