I have seen, heard, felt, and yes – even smelt – a fair few things in my 13 years as a Clinical Nurse Specialist working in the busiest ED in Victoria.
I’ve looked after every walk of life, from catching babies (I’m great at catching, but would never suggest that its anything more than catching, let alone delivering!), to holding the hand of the dying as they have slipped away, and then comforted their family who just couldn’t make it time.
I’ve even watched as my first child received a potentially devastating diagnosis in utero, and was whisked away to start his life as a Heart Kid in the NICU, not knowing if I would ever get to hold him earth-side.
I’ve seen first hand the devastating effects of everything from road trauma and industrial accidents, to the Black Saturday fires, and family violence.
I’ve prided myself on my strength, knowledge, and on my integrity.
I thought I was well rounded in my experience, and that very little could now phase me.
I literally spent the last 60 mins of my rostered shift today off the clinical floor, physically and emotionally exhausted, and in tears.
I’m not sharing this for sympathy; I’m sharing this as a personal reflection of the effects of working on the front-line of this pandemic.
Of almost 2 years spent in varying levels of PPE; of almost 2 years of not having a tea room, let alone a tea break (or a pee break!);
of almost 2 years of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion every single day I go to work;
Of almost 2 years of worrying whether today will be the day that there’s a minuscule breach in my PPE, so small yet large enough for me to unknowingly literally take work home with me, and infect my young family;
Of almost 2 years copping abuse from patients, their relatives, and the general public, unhappy with decisions and restrictions that are out of my control, yet are left to us to try and enforce.
Of almost 2 years of being constantly inundated with patient after patient, each being critically unwell, each unable to be provided the care they deserve, as resources are stretched thinner and thinner by the day.
Of almost 2 years of seeing colleagues leave a vocation, they passionately love, because they simply can’t do it anymore.
Of 2 months (give or take) hearing that ‘we’ have surge capacity in our ICUs and ventilator supplies, and wondering from where the heck the human resources are going to come.
Of 2 weeks becoming increasingly worried by what I am seeing unfold around me, both on the front lines and in the (reputable) news media.
Of 2 days of coming to acknowledge what we, your last line of defence acute service providers, have been pretending we don’t see every day.
Of no longer seeing a healthcare system on the brink of being overwhelmed.
We are already overwhelmed.
The ship – the system – has already sunk.
Our capacity to provide you, and your loved ones, the care you need – the care you deserve – has already been lost; already been taken away.
Many of us have already given all we can give.
I just hope that when – not if, but when – someone i love is reliant upon our last line of defence….
I just hope that there is still enough of us left to fight for them.
Today, I finally understood that I have nothing left to give.
And I cried.
Morgan Carlyon. BSc(Melb), BNSc(Melb), Grad Cert Emerg Nursing (RMIT), CCRN