Updated: Sep 11, 2021
These Challenging Times.
Ugh... *massive eye roll*
That's my first reaction to those words.
I don't know about you, but I've heard these words too many times. If you don't already know, I'm a healthcare provider in a large academic hospital. I remember driving to work morning after morning listening to Bob and Tom on the radio, looking for some comic relief before I walk through those hospital doors to an unfortunate reality. I'd be happily listening to Donnie Baker make some jokes about his idiot cousin Lonnie just to be interrupted by a commercial seriously discussing "these challenging times." My response to these unwanted commercials was often a groan or even a few curse words to express my displeasure. I'd usually turn to a new station just to hear more commercials about this company or that company doing whatever they're doing to make "these challenging times" a little less challenging for their customers.
I also recall the "healthcare hero" slogan making it's debut around this time. I haven't talked about this term very much with other healthcare providers, but I'm fairly certain I'm not the only one that gets a bad taste in my mouth every time it pops up on TV, radio, billboards, newspaper ads, social media, etc. I felt like I couldn't get away from it. The only time I didn't hate it was when my brother-in-law called me to tell me that he really did think of me as a hero for what I was doing every day. I knew it was heartfelt and it truly meant the world to me. But every business that coined this term and used it to their advantage to promote their product or service disgusted me. It felt like every single one of those businesses was monetizing and profiting off of my hard work and my struggle when my hospital couldn't even afford to give us a raise. My only hope was that this term would slowly fade into the dark until it was forgotten completely.
On top of my already increasing disgust of these terms which were supposed to be politically correct and encouraging to those of us fighting this nasty virus, I saw increasing distrust happening back home with some of my relatives. Some said that the virus wasn't real, or that masks wouldn't help, or that the hospitals were inflating their numbers, and worst of all, that it wasn't as bad as I said it was. During the most difficult and traumatizing time of my entire life, my own family seemed to be working against me when I only wanted their support and encouragement. I'm sure that they didn't mean for their words to be as personal as I perceived them, and I know they were facing their own struggle in their own way as everyone did during that time. I love them, I know they love me, and we have figured out how to communicate peacefully by now and sometimes that means totally avoiding the topic. But I was already at my wits end and they pushed me past my limit. I said some things to my own family that I never imagined I was capable of. These have been truly challenging times.
Thanks to the impact of this virus, I've felt hopelessness, defeat, isolation, grief, despair, overwhelming sadness, and terror, just to name a few. Unfortunately my husband has had to watch me go through all of it, day after day, and neither of us know what he can do to help me other than be there to give me a big hug when I get home. I recently read an article about a surgeon who took his own life about one year after the pandemic began. I cried. Even though I never met this man, I feel that I understand him and his struggle. I have never had suicidal thoughts but I understand how the accumulation of all of those feelings I listed could lead there under the right circumstances.
I hope someday we can get past all of this. A time where COVID-19 has a more effective and accepted treatment and vaccine. Until then, I don't know the answer. I plan to keep working through my inevitable burnout and give my patients the best me I have to offer.
"These challenging times" have been especially challenging for "healthcare heroes" and these times have changed my life. I chose this title to take some sort of ownership of these words and frame them in my own way so they don't sound so disgusting in other context. I hope that any healthcare provider reading this feels empowered and that they are not alone in their experiences or trauma. I'd love to hear from you if you have experiences that you want to share or talk through. I'll be sharing some of my own in future blog entries. We're in this together.
What do you think of when you hear "these challenging times" or "healthcare hero?" Do you have the same gut-wrenching reaction that I do, or do you see it differently? Let me know in the comments!