The Harsh Realities of a Healthcare Worker

We are the ones that often go ignored by doctors, nurses and medical assistants. The ones who face the nastiness of patients and visitors who don’t want to be screened. We are shouted at, yelled at and made to feel like we are worthless. We are told that the virus is not real but is instead a conspiracy made up by the government. Yet our hospitals are filled with COVID positive patients. On the COVID unit and even on the floors these patients remain isolated from their families and unable to see one single visitor. The only thing they see are the nurses and personal care assistants coming into their rooms with their gowns and respirator helmets on. Imagine for a moment how that must feel. Then we have the ICU which is filled with the worst cases.

The ones hooked up to ventilators who are at death’s door. Now imagine being told that your loved one is going to die and that the only way you can say goodbye is through a shield of glass in front of you. You can’t hold that person’s hand nor can stroke their hair. You are forced to watch them die alone. This is what every healthcare worker is witnessing right now. We are living in a pandemic and yes it is real. As an entry screener my job is one that may not seem important to you but it is important to me. My job is to get your temperature and to screen you in order to make sure that you don’t expose the virus to health patients, visitors or employees. My job is to screen you and alert the ER staff if you are positive so that may come out and take care of you. You may consider it an inconvenience to be screened and to have to wear a sticker but it is a job that we must do.

As an entry screener I have seen a great deal. I have witnessed family members breaking down upon the news that their loved one is going to die. I have comforted a few. I have seen mothers rush in carrying their toddlers or young children whom they fear have been exposed and as a mother myself I understand that fear. I have dealt with some very sick and terrified people both young and old. I have listened to those who are frightened of this virus and I feel that same fear. Everyday I walk out of work and I silently get into my car. I rip off my mask and tuck it away in a tiny bag and then as I am driving home I begin to cry. I am scared, I am exhausted, I am mentally burnt out. I am terrified of getting the virus and I am terrified of bringing it home to my loved ones. I don’t sleep well because I am riddled with anxiety and sometimes I don’t even eat. I am faced with this nightmare that I can’t wake up from.

I wipe my tears the moment I get home because I don’t want my son to see how frightened I am. I have to put on my armor the moment I get to work and then the moment I get home. Sometimes I lash out at the ones I love. It is not that I intend to, it’s just that I don’t think they understand how terrified I really am. I have become so good at hiding behind a wall that when it begins to crumble I begin to fall apart. I want so badly for this nightmare to end but it’s hard to see an end in sight. Maybe the new vaccine will work but it is too soon to tell. The only thing I know is that I feel my heart and soul breaking apart with every life that is lost to this terrible virus.

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Destiny Pifer

Destiny Pifer is a published author who is currently a contributor for Pandemic Diaries. Her work has also appeared in various anthologies.