The press recently ran an opinion piece written by a man who implied health care providers are liars and quoted the story of intensive care nurse Emily Farness of a nurse writing farewell letters to a dying patient as proof that the hospital is not really in crisis.
I speak firsthand, as I have helped our intensive care team meet patient care needs through the team nursing model, both in December / January and again in August / September, the need currently continuing. Many of my peers and I worked overtime outside of our home department, week after week, to meet patient needs. I worked with a basic critical care RN who was on her 10th consecutive 12 hour shift and who was still sitting on the edge of the bed, holding a patient’s hand and treating that patient with dignity and compassion as he ended up with comfort-of-life care plans for the patient’s spouse as care was withdrawn.
I have also worked for years alongside the registered nurse mentioned in the story and know that nurse lost her remaining parent this year. His personal loss made him more in tune with the importance for his patient to say goodbye to him. This team of nurses put a lot of effort into taking the time to help a patient say goodbye to loved ones. Do you know why? Because we (the healthcare providers) are desperately trying to keep our empathy and our humanity alive during this overwhelming battle that seems to never end. We work tirelessly to give our patients the best of ourselves in sub-optimal conditions.
Some of our COVID-19 patients have been with us for weeks. Some get better, some die, some become widowed or widowed while in our care, and some are permanently disabled and will never return to the life they once knew. Working in intensive care right now is heartbreaking. Health care providers experience trauma and grief, lose sleep, and worry about their own loved ones. Then we quit work and many in our community insult us and neglect our eyewitness testimony.
I ask you why would health care providers lie? Distorting the situation would be of no use to us. There is no benefit in health care organizations reversing what really makes money – elective surgeries – in favor of housing critically ill patients for weeks at a time. Healthcare organizations everywhere are bleeding money to pay for larger tanks of oxygen, more equipment, increased pay for travel nurses or overtime for core staff and large amounts of costs. ‘individual protection equipment.
Health care providers have no reason to lie to you about what we see. We are human beings doing our best in a horrible situation. Please do not attack or insult us for doing our best to show compassion to our suffering and dying patients.
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Shannon Kline, MSN, RN, is a nurse at Kootenai Health.