Opinion: Front line workers can’t be thanked enough

By Mike Williscraft

Brave, traditionally, may not be a word one might attach to the nursing profession.

These days, that has changed a lot. Brave, mentally tough, dedicated are just a few of the adjectives which can now be added to caring, quick-thinking and empathetic.

It was interesting when I was going back and forth with Danielle Field to round up details on her opinion piece and background.

Both our mothers are registered nurses. I understood her thoughts implicitly.

My mom loved being a nurse; trained as an ER nurse, then stepping back from her career when we came along. When my Dad died in 1977 she went back to it, I am sure in an attempt to keep busy, at Huronview – a provincially run nursing home in my hometown, Clinton.

She liked nights. The nurses out there will understand the main benefit of nights – aside from the shift premium (which I am not even sure is a thing anymore) – was she got to avoid a lot of the politics of management. Working 11 p.m.-7 a.m. she got to go in, do her thing, and get out of dodge before the honchos showed up.

The downside for her was fewer orderlies at night to help with turning and lifting. That strain over 20 years cost her a healthy back, shoulder and two knees, one of which has been replaced although both needed it 10 years ago.

That was physical demand, and did not take into account the mental strains which are taking a toll daily on our front-line professionals today.

Many who are fortunate enough to have not had to deal with the healthcare system over the last year may be shocked to see one of the photos sent in by Danielle. The one in full-on PPE (personal protective equipment) was the first one I received. Good shot, tells an important part of the story, but readers cannot see her smiling face.

The contrast – hence the side-by-side presentation is stark.

One shot, a happy, smiling woman. The other, a nurse ready for the day’s battles in our current healthcare environment.

I still find it odd to see someone walking down the sidewalk with a mask on during a bright, sunny day. How do you think a toddler would translate the look of what used to be a warm, smiling nurse when taken to hospital by parents with strep throat or somesuch?

That is just one simple example from a patient point of view. Can you imagine, for a moment, being on the nursing end of that image?

As Danielle noted, there are good days and bad, but one thing is for sure, the wave of those in need of care will keep on coming. Over the last year, that wave has been crested by constant uncertainty.

Over the last year I have seen, heard and lived a lot of tough times. Nothing has been easy for anyone. That said, the trials and tribulations of running a business relate to financial impacts. I’ve seen friends go broke and I’ve seen friends enjoy (quietly) their best years ever. There is mental strain, but day in, day out, running a business does not encompass life and death struggles.

There simply is no comparison.

So when one speaks of a titanic struggle regarding mental health there are varying degrees of stress to which people have been exposed. For nurses, or anyone in the front-line services, the last year has been 365 Groundhog Days.

Danielle said she hopes people who read her offering will gain some sense of what her environment is like. Giving it the play we have in this edition is a minute way to show support for her efforts.

If you are lucky enough to have not needed to go to a hospital in the last year, more power to you. If you have, you know of what I speak.

Thanks, Danielle, all our nurses at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital and around the globe as well as all our front-line workers who have managed to somehow keep the wheels of health care – and many other areas of society creeping along in what is mostly unthinkable times.

When I was a kid, I always used to appreciate the job police officers do, but I never wanted to be one. It would be too hard to deal with all the crud they have to put up with – that’s my view anyways.

I never would have put nursing in that category. If people needed help, I would find a way to help, but career-wise, it is likely many will think twice before taking that path. For the good of society, we should be glad there are people who heed that calling and continue to shoulder the brunt of the pandemic’s impact.

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