Confessions of A Healthcare Worker

I’m currently sitting in the parking lot. 
The car is quiet-my son is with my mom, my husband is at work, and for the first time in a long time, it’s just me. My mind can finally release everything the last year has brought upon it. All I want to do is sob. There is such a weight on my shoulders, I feel it in my soul.  
I work in healthcare, providing direct patient contact and care.
I am on my second N95 mask since March (these are supposed to be single-use). We still don’t have enough PPE. We were told that we have ration our gloves so that the vaccination clinics have enough. The policies change hourly, nearly a year into this pandemic. We don’t have concrete procedures for how to handle positive cases when it is the support person that is positive but not showing symptoms. We don’t have screening policies that actually adequately screen. Temperatures, the one thing people cannot lie about, aren’t taken until after the person is past the screening table because the screeners are not trained to point the thermometer at foreheads. We don’t have staffing ratios to support our healthcare workers. We are told to come to work unless we are showing symptoms-even if our household has a positive case. 
Our hospitals are utilizing symptom management to staff the floors, not prevention-based staffing. 
I am exhausted-all of our healthcare workers are. We are tired of being told how to do our jobs by people who have never been bedside. Tired of being told to suck it up; that we signed up for this. We are told that there are bonuses being handed out, only to see those bonuses go to those in business suits that have never had to put a full PPE suit on. We are getting floated to other units but no one floats to us because they aren’t trained. 
I try to leave it all at work; when my shoes change, I leave it at the door. But then I go grocery shopping. I am so tired of seeing people not wearing a mask-or worse, not wearing it properly. I know they suck and you’re tired of them and they’re one more thing you have to remember. I get it. Trust me, I want to be able to go back to our pre-coronavirus activities. I love exploring new restaurants and parks as much as anyone.
But I wish you could see my co-workers pushing themselves to the brink, just to be told that COVID positive patients aren’t 1:1 (one-on-one) staffing unless they’re symptomatic. 
I wish you could see my laboring mama who cannot have her support person there because they’re symptomatic. I wish you could see the eyes of a grandchild who cannot be with their grandparent. I wish you could hear the heartbreaking stories of goodbyes, last calls before intubation. 
The fears of your healthcare staff of bringing this virus home. 
To their families. 
Their friends.
I am fully vaccinated against COVID. I haven’t given my mom or grandmas a hug in over 325 days, if not longer. I still wear a mask and wash my hands and socially distance.
I am terrified of giving them this virus.
Wearing a mask is not an infringement on your rights any more than being required to wear a shirt in any establishment. 
When this pandemic started, healthcare workers were heralded as heroes. People banged pots in the streets, companies reached out in support. For once, we were appreciated-no matter our titles.
And then everyone got quiet when mask mandates happened. 
When the lock-downs were extended.
When it became summertime.
When suddenly healthcare workers were begging people to do basic things-wear a mask, wash your hands, socially distance. 
It flipped into conspiracy and science was distrusted.
We were trolled on social media. I was called a sheep. People told me that I was making a bigger deal about nothing; that the numbers were being inflated or somehow, hospitals were benefiting from having elevated COVID patient counts.
Let me be perfectly clear. We want nothing more for this to be behind us. None of us like walking into work and wondering if our patients are still in their rooms or if the patient list has been replenished with all new names. Those of us in healthcare have absolutely nothing to gain from this pandemic still happening. But it is now nearly a year after everything changed. Coronavirus is still here. It is still running our lives; and yet, when I look around, all I see is people not taking it seriously.
If you want to save a life, wear a mask. Don’t go outside of your circle. Wash your hands. Get vaccinated if you are able.

Here I am, in a parking lot, sobbing.