Emergency Dept. Nurse

Emergency Dept. Nurse

from The Frontline

Flint, MI, US

I was supposed to get married on June 13, 2020, in Oakland, Michigan but COVID scratched those plans. It’s disheartening certainly, and I don’t often get excited about things but I was very excited to get married. I think Tori and I both knew it was coming well before we decided to cancel it. I try to remember how lucky I am to be able to reschedule getting married. People are planning funerals, that obviously cannot be postponed, around this time and some have been isolated completely from their significant other during this mess. We’ve always been a little non-traditional. What’s important is we’re both healthy, we both still like each other after spending prolonged time together, and we have made the decision to celebrate with our friends and family when it’s safe for all to do so.

When COVID-19 finally became a reality for me and my coworkers I had officially hit the two-year mark of my emergency nursing career. I watched fear and anxiety creep into some of my most experienced and veteran coworkers who have fostered my growth since I started. These are the people you ask your questions to, you run your hypothetical scenarios through, you want to be like so one day you can help the baby-nurses. It’s unsettling when no one has the answers. This is something that is happening for the first time, in this capacity, for most nurses and throughout this pandemic, my dysfunctional, ED family have become like my battle buddies. A battle buddy is a term the army coined for a partner that does everything with you. They embrace whatever shit you’re going through along with you, they are shoulder to shoulder with you, they take one more step forward– as long as you will too. They might see you at your worst, physically and emotionally, and they won’t betray your trust because you have also seen them at their worst.

From the ED perspective, it is very similar. We’ve watched each other swallow the fear of how COVID-19 might affect our health before putting on all our PPE and entering a patient’s room. I’ve watched my coworkers make the hard decision to isolate themselves from their loved ones and children. Much like the army, I’ve also watched my coworkers stand around perplexed at what could possibly be thrown at us or asked of us to do next. I think many of us already shared mutual experiences as witnesses to tragedies and other human experiences that bonded us closely, but this crisis has just huddled us closer in a way that can only be understood by those who’ve worn an N-95 for the last few months and stripped on their porch to keep germs out of their home.

I think ED/trauma nurses are blessed with an unmatched amount of resiliency, and can often be unscathed as eyewitnesses to some of the worst things imaginable. Before COVID the ED was extremely fast-paced, no lag, you dance from one arrest, to a trauma, you might’ve ducked a drunk patient’s swing while on your way to help your core partner get a crash cart. In a 12 hour shift, there was never much time to marinate in some of the worse things we’ve seen. Now there is a lull in the average amount of patients we see in a day, but we still see casualties from children all the way to the elderly. They are just as tragic and despairing as they were at the start of the year. Before I would deal with what we witnessed by trying to help: my next sickest patient, my core partner, a nurse who’s drowning in orders in the department, or crack a joke to hear my coworkers laugh. There isn’t as much of that anymore and I’m running out of good jokes. What keeps me hopeful is all the kindness and support the community has shown towards us. The summertime always cheers me up and I am so thankful for the sunshine and warmer weather. Lastly, I hope if something of this magnitude happens again I’ll be able to share with the baby nurses what I learned during this time and offer some comfort.

Photo credit – Instagram: @jenzafrenza

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