Advancing Your Career | Burnout | COVID-19

Turning the Pandemic into a Positive Nursing Career Change

  • It is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on nurses and other healthcare providers.
  • See how this provider has taken this dark time and turned it into an opportunity for a nursing career change.

Elaine Enright

RN

December 30, 2021
Simmons University

Two years ago, my colleagues and I at the urgent care center were seeing patients come in with severe upper and lower respiratory symptoms. After both the flu and strep pharyngitis swabs tested negative, we all knew something was up. 

Patients were returning to our center several times stating they couldn’t get over this “cold.” They were presenting with congestion, and some even had pneumonia, severe coughing, and bronchitis that required nebulizer treatments. Others needed steroids and inhalers for the first time in their lives.  

Can you imagine this, today? 

As you can imagine, I went to work each day with a growing sense in my mind that something was up, but what was it? 

In January of 2020, my daughter and granddaughter were at a cheerleading competition, and both became ill; like many others I had seen in the care center, we also thought it was the flu.  

My granddaughter slept for almost an entire week, was nauseous and vomiting along with diarrhea, while my daughter was put on steroids, inhalers, and nebulizer treatments for an upper respiratory illness for six weeks. 

She tells me today if she had known what this illness was at the time, she would have gone to the hospital. I am convinced that her and my granddaughter both had COVID-19 

Meanwhile, news was emerging about this new viral strain from China. As I am sure you remember, there were so many theories on how it had evolved and how it was released into the world; everyone was confused. 

Putting the controversy of its origination aside, we now know that COVID-19 is here to stay, in one form or another.   

As nurses, we must do the best that we can to promote safe and healthy behaviors to our patients, their families, friends, and community members going forward.  

So, you might ask, how did I end up turning this dark time into a positive nursing career change?  

It was not always positive, in fact, there were some very dark times and I think that it is important that I highlight the bad before I mention the good.  

covid-19 test

How Has the Pandemic Affected the Nursing Community?

We have seen so much loss. We have lost patients, friends, and colleagues throughout the duration of this pandemic. I am sure every one of us has a story or two of our own.  

For me, I have seen many of my fellow colleagues retire or leave the profession due to burnout, lack of support from administrators, and short staffing, which has historically been an issue in nursing even before the pandemic.   

Like many of you, I have had many experiences in my years as an RN and like all of us dealing with COVID-19, this has been one of the most challenging.   

Burnout is a major concern for us currently and I feel for my colleagues who are just starting out or are still dealing with this major challenge.  

As the saying goes, ‘life will never be the same.’ 

At times, it seemed easier to quit than to keep going. How can anyone find a silver lining in this never-ending pandemic?  

My biggest hope is that the public will now understand the importance of staying home when ill, being diligent about hand washing and using sanitizers as well as learning how to sneeze and cough into a tissue or elbow.   

These are such simple things we can all do to minimize this virus and other contagious diseases that we may encounter in the future.  

The nursing community must continue to teach and reinforce these preventive actions so that they become habitual for everyone. We all know that prevention is key!

COVID-19 vaccine

How Did I Turn the Pandemic into a Positive Nursing Career Change?

As nurses, we have several options on where and what to practice. Many have found work beyond the bedside!  

Some nurses have become authors, independent case managers, and health coaches, to name a few. Sure, they may not be providing direct patient care anymore, but they continue to educate others through various platforms (blogs, public speaking, lobbying, etc.). 

When the vaccine was formulated, I wondered what I could do to help so I called my local health department in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 

After receiving an invitation to join their team, I began assisting with vaccination administration and education. I will never forget our first vaccination clinic.  

Imagine a dirt parking lot in the middle of a freezing cold February; that was it. There were so many nurses and volunteers there that I lost count. As the sun came out and the snow and ice melted, we were up to our ankles in mud (I remember thinking that my toes would never thaw).  

This clinic was one of the first rounds of people over the age of 65, and although it was cold and some had been waiting for several hours, I cannot begin to tell you how happy they all were to be there.  

I saw folks crying with joy and gratitude.  

From that clinic and a few others to follow, we vaccinated over 500 elders.  

We held clinics in public garages, college and school auditoriums and gyms, as well as a local fairground all during the winter and spring seasons.  It was cold, but it was worth it to see the smiles and happiness we delivered.  

Such a simple and basic skill we nurses have and so easy to do, but it meant that life could be lived with a little peace of mind for the community.   

Since that day, I have worked at least once a week to vaccinate 1st, 2nd, booster doses and now 5–11-year-olds.  

As of June 2021, my health department has administered 38,000 doses of the COVID vaccine, and I cannot imagine how many more we have done since then. 

As we approach my 36th year of nursing, I feel the most honored and rewarded I have ever felt to be able to help my community with this historical event. Finding a positive nursing career change in such an unprecedented time is something I would have never initially expected, but I am so happy to be in the position where I can help others stay safe.

Whether COVID or other illnesses that might come our way, we nurses will always be at the forefront delivering care and compassion. It is who we are. 

In this time of confusion and chaos, I salute and celebrate my nursing colleagues for all they do and all they will do in the future. I hope you can all find a silver lining amidst this craziness.  Stay strong! 

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