Column: To The Nurses Who Won’t Read This

I’m guessing that most nurses aren’t going to see this article—at least not right away. Who has time to read when you’re working with patients at hospitals and other healthcare facilities? But if you know a nurse, you’re encouraged to pass on these words of gratitude and encouragement. Because they are doing heroic work.

I should know. A month before the coronavirus was a thing, I spent a month in the hospital, being treated for pneumonia. I was constantly amazed at the hard work, care, thoughtfulness and healing that the nurses, nurse’s aides and hospital technicians offered round the clock. Some had 12-hour shifts during which there was no time to sit, hardly a chance to eat or take care of personal needs. I was exhausted just watching them in action.

And not all patients were as delightful as I was. There were some challenging patients who suffered from dementia or physical pain. Others were overly demanding. And if the patients were not demanding, the job is.

On top of the physical and emotional care nurses offer those who are ill, they are now required to be tethered to a mobile computer unit and they need to log every procedure and intervention. While accurate charting is essential in today’s day and age, data entry is yet another expectation put upon the nursing staff.

And now comes the coronavirus. Infectious diseases are always a concern for those dealing with patients, but the new virus creates a different set of concerns and fears. Combine that with a growing shortage of masks and other protective equipment and the anxiety level goes up even more.

Many nurses have family members that concern them deeply. Whether it’s their children or their parents or their spouses, there are worries that the virus could be unknowingly spread from the hospital to the home. Or even vice versa. And after working a lengthy shift, there’s so little energy left to bring to the home front.

There are new practical considerations that face nurses, doctors, and others who are at work throughout the day. Grocery stores now have limited hours so that they might not be open before and after work. Who’s doing the shopping? Simple things that are taken for granted are now taken away.

The normal personal sources of strength, inspiration and hope are now restricted as well. Churches and other houses of worship are closed. Twelve-step groups and other kinds of support groups are not as readily available. Fervent prayers for this to be over seem to be unanswered. Everything seems to be left to the nurses.

There are the financial concerns too. While hospital personnel are still drawing salaries, some need to spend extra money for child care while their children are not in school. Their investment accounts are subject to the same losses as everyone else’s. The financial issues just add another layer of distress.

So whether nurses and other in the healing profession see this or not, we ought to take the time to say “thank you” and to offer whatever kind of personal affirmation, encouragement and practical help that we can offer. It doesn’t look like this virus challenge will be over anytime soon. So we want to be in solidarity with those who are on the long journey of care. May God bless all those who are caring for the ill among us.

Father Ralph Sommer
Pastor of St. Bernard's Church since 2013 and known for his engaging homilies and community presence, Father Ralph Sommer is also a treasured columnist for the Levittown Tribune.

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