Will it always be like this? A critical care nurse leader was recently asked this question by one of her novice nurses in the first year of practice. She related to me that as she thought about the question, she realized the following:
- This young nurse had only worked in an ICU where everyone wore PPE, and facial expressions were hard to read.
- This young nurse had only worked in an ICU where they lost 3-5 patients a day to COVID.
- This young nurse had only worked in an ICU where family visitation was not allowed.
- This young nurse had only worked in an ICU where the staff was limited to 5 days off over one of the holidays.
- This young nurse had only worked in an ICU where there was no nurse recognition day in May.
- This young nurse had only worked in an ICU where she went to her car to eat lunch and did not meet others in the lounge.
- This young nurse had only worked in an ICU where she came to work scared that she herself might get sick.
The leader said the more she thought about it, the more I realized that she was telling me that she never thought it would be like this. This was not how envisioned her first nursing position would be. Like this critical care leader, many frontline leaders tell me that they are having very challenging conversations with their staff. They are trying to frame a healthcare environment in their discussions with their young staff that almost seems out of control. They are doing their best to offer reassurance while dealing with a surge of patients during what should be a happy holiday season.
This critical care leader told me that she had been frank with staff that these are dark days. We are living a trauma, she admits, but my job is to get them through it. I asked her how she answered the question – will it always be like this? She said she told this young nurse that she did not know exactly when this would end but was certain that it would. I told her that no – it won’t always be like this, and when it does end, you will be much stronger for having lived through this.
Read Rose Sherman’s book – The Nurse Leader Coach: Become the Boss No One Wants to Leave
Rose O. Sherman is an emeritus professor in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University and currently serves as a faculty member in the Marian K. Shaughnessy Nursing Leadership Academy at Case Western Reserve University.