ICU nurses are facing burnout at an alarming rate due to repeated COVID surges, staffing shortages, the lack of efficacious treatments for severe COVID leading to very high mortality, and with omicron, increasing infection rates among staff members. Here is my attempt to give voice to an ICU nurse in the pandemic.
I’m tired I’m tired I’m tired….
That’s all my mind lets me think
As I come closer to the brink
Of losing empathy- is this burnout?
I desperately want a way out
A way that I cannot even find
Wave after wave has benumbed my mind
The layers of PPE no longer appear to be
Protective gear, all they do is stifle me
Mechanically my shifts I try to work through
I don’t stop to reflect on what I do
Now there is an immediate sense of deja vu
Each time there is announced a code blue
The adrenaline rush that would previously kick in
To save a coding patient is missing, my reserves run thin
As another life is claimed by the beast that is COVID
I want to explode in anger, I feel livid
There is no place to vent my anger or frustration anyway
We are all spent, we have nothing to say
I think about quitting in my weariness
Everyday we do more and more with less
I worry that the proverbial last straw lurks near
It could break my back any day, I fear
Ironically what prevents me from going berserk
Is the frantic pace- I have no choice in the face of excess work
Each day staff is dwindling, for reasons varied
The ones standing are stretched thin in this time of need
We’ve had a small victory for my patient, let me try
To celebrate it with others, and reinforce to myself why
I continue to do this day after day
I am an ICU nurse, I shall not run away..