Management Amidst the Chaos

This has been a post in progress, waiting in my draft box for the right time, one that I have been working on for a while. I guess I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to post it? Maybe it wouldn’t be necessary…here we are, still in the midst of a pandemic. The funny or ironic situation is that so many people around the world simply do not believe that Covid-19 is or ever was a problem. So many times I have been asked,

  • how do you sleep
  • how do you manage the heartache, grief, pain, the daily struggle
  • how do you deal with the anxiety
  • how do you do this day after day
  • how do you do this period
  • and the most often asked, how do you leave your children behind

Well, let me address all of these by saying it starts with the foundation of nursing and who I am as a nurse, nurse educator, mother, and community member. I have always said from day one that I am not, nor did I leave my children, my home, my friends, all of my daily comforts to do what I have been doing for the past 11.5 months. I took an oath as a nurse to do no harm, to show up when and where ever needed and that is exactly what I did. Not a single nurse a year ago ever dreamt of waking up to the news and hearing that our nation was entering or in the midst of a pandemic, I never would have imagined in my lifetime I would see what I have seen and continue to see. That being said, I show up because I need to, I want to, it is what I am called to do.

So, let me address a few of the questions I have had:

How do you sleep: Well, as you can imagine, working 60-72 hours a week I am beyond exhausted by the time I get done with work. Most mornings on the way home from a night shift in NYC I fell asleep in the back of my Uber or Lyft (and for those of you who have driven side streets of NYC that tells you how exhausted I was). I would typically get to my hotel, right on Broadyway Street #hotel99 where my hotel mom would greet me and always ask how my shift was and if I needed anything. She always wished me a good sleep and off I would go. I would pull the darkening curtains, crank up the AC, shower as fast as I could and dive bomb into bed…the rest is history until about 5pm. Now, realize living on Broadway is no joke! Sirens every 30 seconds and people screaming non-stop; when you are THAT tired, nothing bothers you!

The key to sleeping soundly was a freshly made bed; Ashley and Maria always made sure my bed was made and ready for me to snuggle in. I also bought a simple bedding set from #Target that made my room feel more like home! It is the simple things that really make a difference living in a hotel room. To other travel nurses reading this, even your own pillowcase or a simple blanket makes a big difference. Having a piece of your home with you brings you comfort in the craziest of times.

How do you manage the heartache, grief, pain, and daily struggle: This is a great question and a question that I sometimes still ask myself. There were days that I sat and just wept. There were nights that I was on my knees begging God to save my patient(s) simply because I could not stand to lose one more. I could not stand to wrap up another husband, father, sister, mother. There were times of joy; when those who chose to pass peacefully, were allowed to do so and there I was there with them, holding their hand and telling them it was going to be ok. Although it stung, and it still stings to think of all the people I have cared for in their final days, minutes, and hours it is comforting to know that they didn’t die alone. It makes the burning heartache just a little less. The daily struggles are still there, those random thoughts of CPR, random memories of Mount Sinai emergency room when I was holding the hands of two frail, elderly individuals. Both hands were hands that had held their newborns, fed the mouths of others, taken care of family, and now at the end of their life they were holding mine. I was honored to hold those hands, our hands do so much not only for us as individuals but for those around us and to be able to hold their hands, tell them it’s all going to be ok, “you are loved.” Memories help the daily struggles when life seems impossible, this is why it is important to always find a rainbow amidst the chaos!

How do you deal with the anxiety: This is a difficult question to answer, a subject that not many want to address in normal times let alone the midst of a pandemic. Anxiety is something I have always dealt with and to be honest, this pandemic has taught me new coping skills. Coping skills such as appreciation, smiling, coloring, journaling, going outside my comfort zone. Each of these skills listed I have utilized not once, not twice, but numerous times; specifically going outside my comfort zone. While that may seem odd to each of you that I am encouraging you when you are dealing with anxiety to go outside your comfort zone you are reading it correctly, take a leap of faith, try something new, push yourself to new limits! When do rainbows appear? Do they appear just because; no they appear when the light is bent, when the sun shines through the rain. Sure, that may seem easy to us but rainbows don’t just happen every single day! Rainbows take work, everything has to align; so be a rainbow for yourself and bend a little, shine through the rain. Break down barriers and let your light shine! One of the biggest things I did for my anxiety in New York was run; normally I am very self conscious of how I look when running well, guess what, New York City has all shapes, sizes, colors, and whatever else going on that nobody cared about little ‘ol me! I jumped out of my comfort zone and ran, it felt so amazing to be free, to let that guard down! Do it! Do something for you that maybe you wouldn’t normally do, I promise it will feel amazing at the end!

How do I do this day after day: I am often told, “you are so strong, I am not sure how you do this.” Well, most days I am not sure how I do this either. While blogging is often an escape and a great outlet and at times a way to capture memories, I had to take a break. I had to step back and simply focus on surviving because the day in and day out of repeated CPR, calling family members to let them know their loved one was not going to live to see another day had finally hit me. So, I do this because I truly love my job and I love my patients. I will fight tooth and nail for any patient and their family. I will advocate until I don’t have a voice or until I am heard. I will do what I need to do in order to ensure my patients only the highest quality care out there! I can often be heard saying, “pony up and lets do this, there is no other choice.”

How do I do this period: Well it is simple…I took an oath to do no harm, to take action, to care for those that need to be cared for, and when the going gets tough it doesn’t mean you turn away; instead you stand up and you figure it out. It isn’t always easy and to be honest while this country has seen significant turmoil and heartache I fear that there is more to come. Covid is here to stay and for that we must be prepared! It is not the flu, will never be like the flu, and thus each time it rears its ugly head and there is a new variant or strain we are going to face heartache and struggle. Just remember we as healthcare workers are NOT the frontline we are the BACKLINE! If people do what they need to do we wouldn’t be seeing as many; you are each your own frontline! Do the right thing and mask up, socially distance, and respect others!

Emmerson at St. Theodore – Holiday Art

How do I leave my kiddos: Well, I am blessed that the children have a fantastic father and that he has fantastic significant other Sarah who loves our kiddos just as much as I do! We co-parent well and at the end of the day make sure that their needs are met. The kids do a great job of calling and chatting it up, I send letters, they send letters as well. In reality, a nurses work is where the patients are and healthcare is tough. I know in the end that my children will be ok! They are loved, cared for, and not deprived by any means. All the time that we spend together is so fantastic and makes up for the days I am gone! Please remember though that many of you do not know my story or other parents stories and we are doing our best to provide for our children so they can have what they need. To give you an example: I just paid $2000 out of pocket for Adelaide’s diabetic supplies (only 2 months). I paid for their school tuition, I am also paying for my graduate degree. So traveling while there are downfalls there are so many positive for everyone involved and when I lay my head down each night I thank God for all the blessings I have received.

Adelaide – Holiday Art Kindergarten

Thank you all for following! Stay tuned as another exciting update will be rolling out SOON!!

Much love and thanks!

Overdue

It has taken me some time, lets face it, a long time to come to terms with what I myself as an individual am going through, what I am facing daily as a nurse, and what my co-workers are also facing. With time, death doesn’t become easier, in fact it gets more difficult with each one. The other day I was working with a newer nurse and she said, “I kind of got teary eyed, I have never had patient die, and now yours, this is a first for me.” I responded with, “death should move you, the moment that death doesn’t move you is the moment you need to be concerned.” I shared with her that when I was teaching full-time I always told my students that nursing isn’t just about the “highs” there will be many “lows” as well; and I told them I wanted them to remember this: death is never easy, however death should be and can be one of the most beautiful events in an individuals life if orchestrated correctly. I explained to them that we are the hands and feet that make that happen; we hold the hand, we clean the body, we play music, we do whatever we can to make it peaceful. I said, “as joyous as birth is death should be as well.”

I have had to remind myself of this many times; sometimes it is during a good cry on the way to work, a cry in the shower, or just holding my patients hand and crying and telling them, “it is ok to let go.” With each patient that is in their final stage of passing, I try to find out from family what type of music they like and if I can’t, I try to play peaceful music, something that is calming for the brain and often times it is Amazing Grace. There is something about that song that when it is played, and I sing it to my patient that I feel peace; peace for not only my patient but myself as well.

Many of you may or may not know but I am currently back in the mid-west working in South Dakota! I took the month of December off to emotionally attempt to heal from New York and El Paso before jumping in again (not sure it worked), recovered from Covid-19 for the second time, and the best part of December and being back in the mid-west was seeing my wonderful kiddos again! I have two of the most amazing and intelligent children; always understanding why I am doing what I am doing and more importantly they say, “mommy, the sick people need you.” We (Hans and I, along with Sarah) are blessed as their parents to have such wonderful staff at St. Theodore’s teach them the value of caring for others and putting the needs of others first!

Emmerson (10)
Adelaide (6)

I finished my first semester of Nurse Practitioner school with a 4.0 and and am back at it again! Starting in April I will be doing an Orthopedic internship in Marshall, Minnesota and am very excited to start working with patients!

Many more updates to come, stories from the front line that were to difficult to share previously, and of course sharing about what is currently happening…trust me it isn’t any better now than it was in March! Do not let the news fool you! Please, wear your mask and wash your hands! Much love to each of you!


							

Compression(s)…

Waking up each day as a medical professional is becoming more and more emotional. Waking up to the reality of what lies ahead a few hours later (yes, I said a few….I wake up early). Each morning as I attempt to pull myself out of bed my body aches a little bit more; these individuals in the intensive care unit are what we consider “dead weight;” meaning, they are paralyzed and/or in a coma so their body cannot help us turn, lift, roll, or anything. As many of you know one of the most common comorbidities is obesity so you add 250+ pounds and turning it becomes a strain.

Flags outside the hospital

The hot showers twice a day feel great, play a little music, cry a little, pray a whole lot, and thank God each day for my safety! One of the most important pieces of my uniform are my compression stockings! These are a saving grace 🙌 (most days)! I chose not to wear them one day and my legs hurt so bad I was in tears…compression socks are a nurses best friend (send some to Texas)!

Compressions though…this is a whole different story! I can’t begin to tell you how difficult it is to perform both physically and emotionally; each time a patient arrests it gets more and more difficult to go through the motions, yet we want so badly for them to pull though! The sad part is, the difficult part yet the REALITY is that they will not make it and if they do, they will not be the same.

The difficult part of this deployment is we know what we are coming into; as disaster response nurses 95% of us have been through this either in New York, Florida, and or Texas round one. The nurses here in rural hospitals have never seen the amount of patients that they are seeing, adding to the difficulty both for the core staff, the relief staff, and the rural community at large.

This is a short post, there are more that will be coming later today in the weeks ahead that I am working on. I appreciate all of your prayers, support, care packages, and words of encouragement. Being in school full-time, working more than full-time, being away from my kids to give them the best life they deserve is DIFFICULT and gut wrenching….oh and did I mention very lonely. Thank you for those who have sent cards! If you are wanting my address, let me know and I am happy to share!

A Nation in Crisis

Short and sweet update…as many of you know I was deployed to El Paso, Texas with less than 15 hours to pack and arrive. Today, due to hot spots popping up all over, at approximately 8pm tonight over 200 of us were moved to another area in Texas (400+miles) away.

Yes, we have just arrived about 30 minutes ago and many are still getting room assignments! We all will be dressed in uniform in roughly 3.5 hours and preparing to board busses to our assigned medical facilities.

Please say some prayers for not only myself but the THOUSANDS of other nurses that are here, deployed, ready to serve with open hearts. Prepare us to show up with smiles, open minds, and mission minded hearts despite all that is going on. We are missing our families and friends, many of us in school, and at this point very sleep deprived!

Gate 35

I got selected yesterday afternoon and had 15 hours to get everything I needed printed, filed, bought, washed, and packed…Happy Birthday to me! I can tell you I am very excited to be heading into any area of our country where there are ZERO beds…patients are in the hallways, dropping like flies, and it is simply not good! You probably are wondering why I am excited; I am excited to make a difference in the lives of others.

Well, here I am at Gate 35and ready to board and depart by 0739 EST. I got selected yesterday and am headed to El Paso, Texas most commonly termed “boot country.” At only two miles from the border of Mexico I am quite excited!

I am being deployed as part of a crisis response team by the Federal Government. We will all be staying as a large group, one large hotel, being transported to and from. Being a crisis contract, we have to be on standby at all times! Needless to say, each of us has our work cut out for us! Not to mention the extreme dry heat!

I will have two weeks of homework completed by the time I land in Texas this afternoon so that I don’t have to worry about anything other than reviewing daily and listening to lecture on repeat. School is going well, although it is not easy and I am humbled by how much I do not know. It is incredibly fun to take my love for learning to a whole new level as I begin to make new connections and have “light bulb” 💡 moments!

I think Gate 35 for American should have my name behind it at this point! Everytime I fly out of Newark….it is from this gate!

Masked up and ready to go!

Roller Coasters and Respect

Life has been like a roller coaster for all of us this year, has it not? At one point we are ringing in the new year and making goals and 90 days later the nation is shutting down and we are all learning together how to function amidst a pandemic. There was an immediate call put out for Nurses, EMS, Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, and other allied health workers across the nation to head to New York City; I jumped at the opportunity.

As many of you know life in New York City was nothing shy of a roller coaster; I saw more, my colleagues saw more than any of us ever imagined. In the thick of it all there was significant respect us as healthcare workers; as things have “calmed down from a news perspective,” the respect has diminished across the nation. Respect for humanity is at an all time low and it hurts. It hurts personally and you probably wonder why?

Think back to the stories I shared with you previously….in the thick of it all, at the peak of Covid-19 in New York City! What many of you don’t understand is that our nation and our healthcare system is STILL, yes STILL feeling the effects of the first wave and even worse families are just beginning to grieve their first loss and now onto their second, third or even fourth. My family (our family) has now personally been affected by covid-19 and I will tell you that I have never been more terrified in my life than those two weeks; being half a nation away and knowing that there was absolutely nothing I could do except pick up the phone and call the staff broke my heart.

One thing you must understand is that I wept with my patients, I held their hands, and prayed with them as they took their last breaths; I was (as were my fellow team members) these individuals family members in their final days and weeks. So to know that my mom was struggling to breathe, alone at home, then alone in the hospital was more than a punch in the stomach. As my mom slowly improved and found her way back home the fear and the anxiety has not eased; simply because there is so much many of you don’t know, don’t understand simply because the NEWS (ALL CHANNELS) do not report!

Covid-19 destroys the human body from the inside out from top to bottom and is not, I REPEAT not like influenza. Influenza affects the lungs, aka your breathing which most of us know; Covid -19 affects your heart, lungs, skin, brain, kidneys, it simply affects your ability to function in almost any and every capacity depending in the severity.

Respect, where do I begin…where does IT begin? We as adults all know or should know what basic respect is. There are going to be times in life when giving respect isn’t easy though we know it is the RIGHT thing to do. The right thing to do is often times the most difficult, again we carry on.

Travel nurses do not have it as easy as everyone ASSUMES we do. We are sent in to situations in the toughest of times; hospitals are desperate for nurses, nursing strikes, and now, nurses are needed amidst national shortage and a pandemic. We leave our friends, our families, our homes, everything familiar to us to go help others in need; yet when we are at these facilities we as travelers are treated like sh*t!

One would think we would be appreciated because we are lightening a load, easing the burden they have been feeling; instead they give us double the patient load, the most critical, needy, emotional, train wreck patients because, “you’re a traveler, you make lots of money, suck it up.”

I would love if you take an opportunity to read this, to post one thing you have realized you are more thankful for since this struck our nation. I look forward to reading each of your thoughts!

Enjoy a couple pictures of kiddos!@

Little miss growing up! She wants to grow her bangs out! This is her mouse she made for the letter “M”
Playing defense…his new passion….Soccer

home…

What can I say, where do I start, how do I answer the question, “where are you from?” I’ll be honest, many times every time someone asks me this I cringe. I cringe with embarrassment as most people immediately jump to the whole, “oh the state where white people kill black people and then start riots.” I love the state in which I come from, I am proud to be from the beautiful state of Minnesota at the same time so very sad. My heart hurts for my children, friends, and their families.

As Minnesotans, we are known to be “Minnesota Nice,” we treat everyone with compassion, empathy, and love. No matter the situation, we pull together and help each other – doesn’t matter the situation and of course when I flew in from New York to Minnesota on a whim my beautiful friend Brianna dropped everything and came to pick me up! Of course the drive from the airport was not near enough time to discuss life, and all that life had thrown at us in 8 weeks but it was better than nothing. We laughed, we laughed, and laughed some more; it was simply amazing to be with someone else who “gets it.”

Once I arrived in Albert Lea it was all surreal; being in a place that was one mine, once a place I called home…now my children’s home. The home in which was built for them is filled with love, laughter, and is full of daily adventures. I was welcomed by Hans and his mother for the entire time so I could be with the kids daily which was fantastic. We enjoyed lots of grilling, jumping on the trampoline, movie time, snuggles in the morning and of course at bedtime, ice cream by the fountain, and many other adventures.

For now, MY home is New York and New Jersey which you will learn more about in upcoming posts; no not because of dating but due to the economy and schooling right now this is where my home will be.

Ultimately, home is where we determine it is…whether it is a 10×10 hotel room, a 6,000 sq foot house, maybe a tent by the river, maybe a sleeping bag on the sidewalk, again a home is what we determine it to be not by what society defines a home. My children have the best home that any two children could ever ask for; fresh bedding, warm meals, two amazing puppies, a grandma that helps with homeschool, a dad and step-mom full-time–correct, they are living the dream!

I hope that each of you are enjoying your dream, enjoying your home wherever that may be. I would love to hear from more of you; in fact my dream is to fill my wall with pictures, letters, and post cards in my current home.

Much love and thanks,

Liz

fun evening on the trampoline! Faces like these are priceless

Destruction

Destruction, I think that is where many of us are at right now as travel nurses. Sure we chose to pack up our lives into suitcases, travel the United States amidst a terrifying pandemic; leaving behind our family, friends, and the comfort of all that most of us have ever known. That being said, take a minute…just stop…look around you tell me could you or would you be able to do the same thing? Would you be willing to pack your bags and jump with two feet into war zone. Many of you may say yes until you learn what I mean when I use the word destruction –

My heart has be destroyed in more ways I could have ever imagined

My empathy and compassion for others has been worn thin — due to pure destruction from Covid and the sheer amount of hours that was required given from all of us to each of our patients and their families.

My emotions are a teeter-totter most days ok daily now that July is here (all new residents)! None the less, working nights you want to just come in and do your job; give your patients your all but you can’t because Covid destroyed the desire that was once there.

Friendships; this is a difficult one to swallow…I have figured out real quick who my true friends are and who my true supporters are through all of this. I think that many people think that because New York is no longer a “Covid hot spot” support and encouragement is not needed – WRONG. Not only is Covid still here, we now (traveling nurses) are here in the hundreds working around the clock taking care of level 1 and level 2 trauma victims in the many different ICU settings. I have started building a good network of traveling nurses as well as local friends which is really nice. It is wonderful to be able to jump in the car on the weekend and head to a beach and relax for the day; previously I would spend the days in my room so with time that is changing. I still miss hearing from many of you back home!

Here in New York things are different; especially working for the city hospital system. Working for privately owned hospitals is all I have ever known; we had what we needed when we needed it and now here in the city it is the exact opposite. There are nights we run out of bedding for our patients. Best Practices —HAHAHAHA the nurses here don’t even seem to know what that phrase means. All of you who know me and know me well, know that I take my profession very serious. I live by standards.

Standards are set for a reason; nurses live within the realm of standards because we should always be showing up every single day to do no harm and always put the needs of the patients first. Here I consistently get a laugh and, “welcome to Harlem, we don’t do things in the city that way, people are cheap around here.” At the end of it all, I do the best to work within the means that I have (not easy let me tell you).

I think Covid has honestly destroyed little bits and pieces of each of us. Our kids are more observant or may have developed anxiety, students have been forced outside of their comfort zone to learn online both school age and college age. Parents, well parents have not only had to be full-time working parents they now have also become full-time educators. To that I say, I FEEL YOUR PAIN. Being an educator is not easy, it is emotionally challenging, it is taxing, it is everything you never thought it would be and more. Ultimately I think I broke many parents and at the same time created so many new bonds between parents and their children as well as fostered growth between parents of the same age group to learn from each other.

Please remember to acknowledge your own shortcomings since covid; I guarantee you we all have something that Covid has stolen from us. Will that/those pieces of us come back, I am never sure. What I can tell you is this; wake up each day and write down three positive things for yourself and then throughout the day challenge yourself to give three random strangers compliments — it is amazing how quickly you feel amazing!

This is not the end, it is only a bump and we will see that rainbow amidst all of this craziness!

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Thoughts

As I sat on this gorgeous patio basking in the sun enjoying lunch I was taken back by this structure that was right in front; it was the only thing one sees when sitting outside here at Harlem Hospital aside from the blue skies. As I sat, I wondered why the hospital would leave such an eye sore amidst this beautiful new addition to the hospital? I’ll be honest, I left still contemplating this but felt God had put this on my heart for a reason.

This building, very ugly in nature, full of holes, damaged and broken bricks, but most of all empty spoke to me in ways I had never imagined. I think many of us who have worked on the frontline whether we admit it or not have some suppressed feelings; feelings of emptiness, damaged hearts, and a sense of immense loss.

Daily on the news we see brief snapshots of those who have lost their life to covid-19; we see their face, we hear their story, and we learn about their legacy. As I sit here this morning (4 days after the picture was taken) I am reminded of how quickly life changes; not only for us as humans and individuals, but also as a nation.

I would bet that many of you right now may be feeling unsettled, lost, confused, and clearly just befuddled with what is happening in our communities and throughout the nation. This sense of emptiness is depicted so well by the building above; so many windows for opportunity, change, improvement….yet here we sit crumbling as a nation.

Do not let the media fool you, we still have many covid patients in the hospital here in New York; much like everywhere else our numbers are beginning to rise. Our numbers are rising slowly, but they are rising. How many body bags need to be zipped up?.How many more lives need to be lost for people to quit complaining about wearing a mask.

Wearing a mask is one thing…I invite you to come work the hospital where we wear two masks, face shield, two pairs of gloves, and a gown…oh and the gowns are plastic so when we exit we look like we have taken a shower in our scrubs.

I challenge you during this time of change, this time of tension in our nation to do the RIGHT thing. Don’t worry about what everyone else does, worry about YOU and how YOU can make an impact!

Liz

Big Changes…

I know in my last video I posted, I mentioned I would discuss upcoming changes and forgot to do that; with all the unsettling events the announcement of my change got pushed to the back burner.

So here it is…..

As you all know, I signed a contract for 13 weeks which would take me to about the 3rd of July. Due to New Yorkers getting their act together ❤ we decreased the number of NEW daily positive covid ICU patients therefore decreasing significantly the number of travel nurses needed throughout the city and surrounding Burroughs.

When that happened my ICU contract got cut; I was blessed though to then have another contract. This other contract was/is at one of the saddest, scariest, most fraudulent places I have ever seen; I will share those stories and details in upcoming posts. That location took a severe emotional toll on me and has taken some time to heal.

So, recently as the city began to open up, prepare for phase one, enter phase one, and then deal with the riots….numbers are now steadily increasing at the same time as operating rooms are opening. I was blessed to have been offered another contract…

So what does all this mean? Well, right now given the crazy economy there are no solid travel positions in Minnesota; positions that I can consistently count on to pay my bills and raise my children. At this time, in speaking with Hans and his amazing significant other Sarah, right now I need to be here working. I will remain here on contract through at least the end of October. With all of that being said, I will be visiting my kiddos frequently and Hans and I are planning weekend trips to meet half way and all visit.

Another change is that I have enrolled in Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program. I will be finished in less than two years; while I am on the East coast I am able to complete clinical hours at outstanding hospitals like Rutgers for example which is know for amazing Pulmonary Care!

I had no idea when I packed four suitcases, and two bags that I would be traveling and become a minimalist. I had no idea the emotional anguish I would encounter as not only a nurse but as a human. This journey has not been easy and our societal standards don’t match what I am doing, right? I mean normally it is the dad that travels and the mom that stays home and works locally; this time we have reversed roles and our children are flourishing.

During the upcoming weeks and months ahead I would appreciate all of your support and encouragement ❤. I am excited for this incredible journey called life; as a firm believer and follower of Christ, I feel that God is leading me in this direction.

My new position will be a conglomeration of PACU, ICU, and ED; this time rather than working for a private hospital I will be working for New York Health and Hospitals which is “the city hospital system.”

Stay tuned for my next post about our nurse get-away!

If anyone is wanting to send cards or packages…i have had more requests for my address:

244 W. 99 Street

New York, New York 10025