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COVID / Health / Self Care

What it’s Like to be a Critical Care Nurse in NYC Right Now

We’re eager, calm, worried, anxious, scared; and we move through that spectrum of emotions daily. Hourly.

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Written by Chanel Monet

Never in a billion years did I think I’d live in New York City. Never once did I imagine I would be on the front lines helping others fight for their lives during a pandemic. You don’t think about these types of scenarios when you’re in nursing school, or when you’re in your job interview. But it all becomes very real when you show up to work and are severely short staffed, are lacking the supplies you need to adequately take care of your patients, and are without proper personal protective equipment.

I can’t speak for all healthcare providers, but I can speak for myself, as nurse who works in the critical care unit, and the staff that I work with. We’re eager, calm, worried, anxious, scared; and we move through that spectrum of emotions daily. Hourly. We’re dealing with stress and anxiety that we can’t even explain. While we’re laying in bed thinking about our next shift, we’re feeling heart palpitations and having anxiety attacks.

I can’t speak for all healthcare providers, but I can speak for myself, as nurse who works in the critical care unit, and the staff that I work with. We’re eager, calm, worried, anxious, scared; and we move through that spectrum of emotions daily. Hourly. We’re dealing with stress and anxiety that we can’t even explain.

Other times we’re feeling a rush of bravery and peace. We’re packing extra clothes so we can change at work after our shift in order to eliminate some of the possibility of bringing home to our families what we’ve been exposed to. We’re also leaving our shift thankful that we’re healthy enough to work, and able to do so at a time like this. We look forward to our days off, and feel pressure and guilt when our manager calls us and asks us to come in because the hospital is majorly short staffed.

We know that means our fellow nurses are going to have a difficult shift, but we also know we deserve down time and need balance. Then we ask ourselves, ‘Does that apply even in a time of emergency? Are we allowed to feel that way?’ While we’re all layered up under suits, and masks, gloves, and face shields in the back of our minds we’re wondering, ‘Is this enough? Am I protected?’ We’re also thinking, ‘I feel like I can’t breathe. I’m suffocating. I could pass out. I’m dehydrated.’

If you take away anything from what I’m saying, please let it be this: we need your support. We need words of encouragement. We need to know that while we’re caring for others, we are being cared for as well.

We are trying to keep the families of COVID+ patients updated the way they would like while the hospital bans any and all visitors. We are trying to assure other patients in the hospital, COVID- patients, that they are safe and we will do our best to keep them protected while in the hospital. We’re juggling a lot of things—I’ve only shared the first thoughts that come to mind—and wearing a lot of hats.

However, what is helping me personally is all of you who are sending me a text, or giving me a call, and letting me know that my efforts are appreciated. That I’m being thought of and prayed for. That I’m not being forgotten in this madness. If you take away anything from what I’m saying, please let it be this: we need your support. We need words of encouragement. We need to know that while we’re caring for others, we are being cared for as well.

I truly can’t express how much strength I’ve received from each and everyone one of you who have checked in with me. I love you guys, I love my job, and I love the opportunity I have to make a difference each and every day at work—especially during times like this.


Chanel Monet is mother and a critical care nurse in New York City.


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