Never could I have imagined what is going on now, and never could I have been more proud to call myself a nurse. In January 2018, after several years as an oncology nurse, my heart was broken. I came across a call to artists on the American Nurses Association Facebook page for artwork to shed light on the heavy burden healthcare workers face, and I felt this was my opportunity to make a difference. My piece, Isolation Mask, ended up being selected by the National Academy of Medicine.
This mixed-media piece, a self-portrait, encompasses all the emotions that go into being a nurse. 12 hour shifts turn into 15 hour shifts, fears of making a mistake, being short staffed, etc, etc. But nursing also held a treasure trove of life-altering moments. Holding someone’s hand as they passed from this life into the next, comforting a scared patient, using humor to make a miserable patient smile on the worst day of their life….so worth everything. Those patients inspired me to not waste time, and to finally follow my passion for art.
Today, as everyone takes a step back, I’ve been going into the chemotherapy infusion room every weekday. I worry about the canceled MRI’s and CT scans, as tumors don’t stop growing during pandemics. I worry about the scarcity of the blood supply, as my patients often need donated red blood cells and platelets to survive. I worry about my patients who have to go into the hospital for issues related to their cancer diagnosis, and cannot have any loved ones stay by their side. Some will die alone because of Covid-19, and they should also be recorded as victims when this is said and done.
I am overjoyed by the outpouring of love for healthcare workers, and I believe this is our chance to finally make needed changes in the healthcare system. Once this pandemic is relegated to the history books, we need to demand better working conditions for nurses. We need to demand reasonable nurse to patient ratios, and safer working environments. Now the world sees it is not missiles and armies who can save us, but rather science, empathy, and compassionate nurses. To my fellow brothers and sisters on the frontlines: my nurses’ cap is tipped to you.