Someone (for Front-Line Nurses) To Tell It To
“To be a nurse, you really have to care about people,” explained Iowa nurse Whitney Neville. When an ICU is packed with COVID-19 patients, most of whom are likely to die, she laments: “to protect yourself, you just shut down. You get to the point when you realize that you’ve become a machine. There are only so many bags you can zip.”
That’s what nurse Neville told The Atlantic for their November 13, 2020 article, “No One is Listening to Us”.
We’ve heard it too at Someone To Tell It To. Hearing the stories of frontline nurses and the trauma they carry has been some of the most meaningful work our teams of listeners have done during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve heard about the trauma that not only affects them at work but follows them and influences all aspects of their lives.
And yes, we’ve heard about the body bags as we listened. The endless numbers of them. The somber ritual that drains a person of hope, of spirit, of light.
“There are only so many bags you can zip.”
The Atlantic article reminds us: “For many healthcare workers, the toll of the pandemic goes beyond physical exhaustion. COVID-19 has eaten away at the emotional core of their work.”
Health-care workers can’t go on like this.
In the world of daily, hourly, endemic, and profound human loss, too many nurses feel as if they are drowning. Too many have too much to carry and seemingly nowhere to take what they’re carrying, to release the awful burdens of what they’ve witnessed and experienced. They feel utterly alone because of it. They need to know that someone, anyone, will listen to them, that someone, anyone, is willing to help them find those points of light that can bring hope back again when life seems all too dark.
Someone To Tell It To cannot cure COVID. But Someone To Tell It To can listen and bear witness to the stories of this past year, and more. We can honor each life that was lost and can honor those compassionate nurses who grace the emergency departments, ICU’s, hospital rooms, and senior living communities each day.
We are granted the sacred honor of helping the nurses — as well as social workers, palliative care teams, and behind-the-scenes professionals — by hearing their stories and listening to their struggles so that they can be healthier givers of care for those they so compassionately serve. Masked, shielded, temperature-checked, and hand-sanitized, we’re entering their spaces to give them the emotional space to talk it out, uncover their trauma, and lift the overwhelming weight that pulls them down into the COVID abyss.
An abyss that evokes past trauma in their lives – the sudden, unexpected death of a spouse, the shocking suicide of a child, the agony of a divorce, the shame wrought by abuse, the debilitating hurt of thoughtless words formed against them.
Each one of them, and so many more whom Someone to Tell It To supports, are deeply connected to their calling to heal. Their work is honorable, and it is transformative — transcendent, actually.
These front-line nurses and others are human, for God’s sake. And for God’s sake, they do their jobs – they give comfort, hold dying hands, relay news – often sad – to anguished loved ones, cool feverish brows, bathe unmoving bodies.
And zip body bags.
It’s their human touch that we honor and value. It’s in seeing beyond the diagnosis, beyond the medical charts, beyond the merely physical, into the glimpses of another’s spirit and dreams and fears and into the intangible matters of the heart where the true essence of each of us lies – the essence where hope and release truly begins.
We’re honored to do this work and are looking for more ways to show up and hold space for frontline workers as we unpack the loss and tragedy of this pandemic. If you’d like to inquire about our listening services, please feel free to contact us.