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Dear Healthcare Heroes,
A month or so ago most of us were just healthcare workers. Nurses, doctors, lab technicians, respiratory therapists, care aides. We were hard workers, caring daily for people with broken bodies, hurting minds, and normal health and wellness needs.
That’s still what most of us are doing now, caring daily for people.
Yes more people, yes different circumstances, and somehow in the rush of just trying to care for people the best we can, we’ve found ourselves a new title- hero.
Heroes in gloves, masks, face shields, and gowns. A heroes suit we never asked for.
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The expectations around being a hero are big. They’re overwhelming. A hero is someone who is strong, who confidently faces what’s coming and challenges it forcefully to back down.
Lately I don’t feel strong and I don’t feel confident. I feel tired, I feel worn down.
I notice everyone celebrating and banging their pots at 7 pm, I hear the applause, see the signs. I’ve read the thank you posters. My thoughts often drift to “really? Me? I think you’ve got it wrong I’m not a hero”.
I know I’m not alone in this thought process. I know other healthcare workers are feeling way more human than hero these days, and I’m starting to realize that that’s okay.
In this season we will say the wrong thing, we will make mistakes, we will not have the answers someone wants, we will fail.
The failures aren’t because we aren’t trying our best, we are, but our healthcare system wasn’t built for this. We’re all learning as we go. Things are changing quickly and there are new challenges each day to rise up against.
People will get angry at us. They will yell, they will be frustrated when we don’t tell them the things they want to hear. We will have to support people through every form of grief, something that is emotionally draining at the best of times. We will feel like we are crashing through hopes and tearing down dreams with every diagnosis and piece of bad news we have no choice but to give.
Our strength will falter because we’re working more than we were meant to in a stressed out space.
Our confidence will waiver because we weren’t meant to jump into new roles with new skills every day.
I don’t feel very strong, but I show up and I give my all, day after day.
I don’t feel strong, but I am resilient.
I don’t feel confident, but I try my best to stay on top of all the new information. I ask questions when I can. I show kindness and empathy when someone is angry at me for not knowing an answer. I don’t feel confident, but I am brave.
I don’t feel like a hero, and maybe other healthcare workers out there feel the same.
I don’t feel like a hero, but I’m trying to show myself grace in this season, because how can any of us get through if we don’t?
We will fail, we will struggle out of bed. We will not be able to move ourselves from the couch after a shift, too tired to process, too tired to be productive at home. We will let down friends and family because we don’t have the emotional capacity for everything going on right now. We will cry, we will feel like we are going crazy, but I think we will make it.
We may not always feel like heroes, but even if we don’t feel like heroes the truth is that we are something better: we are healthcare humans.
Healthcare human beings, working hard, doing the best we can in uncertain times. We are changing the definition of hero.
If the title hero feels too heavy to carry, maybe it’s time to let it go. Be imperfect, be messy, be human.
Be just a resilient, brave, kind, empathetic human. Even without the hero title we are worth every last bit of celebration and love.
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