When the pandemic began, I remember people sending me well wishes, praising me for my sacrifice of being a healthcare worker. At times I found it undeserving, but the appreciation made my heart swell during those shifts that tested my limit. Commercials flooded my television screen mentioning how selfless we were, the nurses and doctors putting in long hours to keep a growing pandemic at bay.
My, have things changed.
Recently, it seems while viewing every avenue of media, I have found myself feeling frustrated and defeated. I have been called “sheep.” I have been called “brainwashed.” I have been told to “hop on your boxcar” to follow the rest. Just mere months ago I was a leader, a dedicated servant to the public. Now, I am a brainwashed masked member of society.
As shocking as it may be, wearing a mask is not a new concept to me as a nurse. I initially wore a mask during my very first day of clinical training in nursing school. I was assigned to care for a young woman battling breast cancer and she was immunocompromised. I remember being so concerned I would unintentionally harm her that I strategically counted every second I washed my hands and ensured my mask was properly placed before entering her room. No one called me a sheep that day. She was kind and appreciated the measures I took to provide care for her.
My viewpoint on PPE did not waiver even after nursing school. Before the pandemic, I had been known to wear a mask when recommended by infectious disease guidelines. When I was high risk and pregnant back in 2018 I wore a mask while providing care to children diagnosed with respiratory illnesses like influenza and pneumonia. I wanted to keep myself, my unborn child, and my patients safe. Oddly enough, no child’s family ridiculed me or deemed me gullible then either.
And just last month, when caring for a child newly diagnosed with cancer, I ensured my mask was properly fit in hopes of preventing the transmission of any germs I could potentially pass. The child apologized as I listened to lung sounds, “I’m so sorry, my hair is falling out all over you!” I was speechless at the selfless comment. This sweet soul felt compelled to apologize to me because chemotherapy was beginning to show its effect. How could I not have the desire to do everything I could to protect innocent life such as this?
I am not here to argue.
I know far too well from the multitude of nasty public proclamations of disgust how many feel about mask recommendations. And honestly, I’ve never felt it wrong to have differing opinions about any matter. I guess I am just sorely naive to think this could be done so peacefully.
As a healthcare professional, I chose (yes I know, I CHOSE) to dedicate my life to serve you and your family the best way I know how. But if caring for my patients, and those around me means I am “brainwashed” and “gullible” then frankly I guess I have been so since my pinning ceremony as a new grad.
My heart is heavy with frustration because I genuinely care about the public. Despite the derogatory names I am called while wearing my mask, I will continue to provide care the best way I know how. How defeated it feels to be rejected based on popular political opinion.
Lest we not forget, most did not choose the healthcare profession because of its luxurious hours. The sacrifice of time with my family occurs all too often. I’ve missed birthdays and holidays while ensuring my patients were cared for as they should be. And I will do so again tomorrow and the day after that. Because no matter how the times may change, one thing remains the same- I am here to help you. Nothing more.
A masked sheep