• Erika Lee Kline

A Nurse's Premonition: Two Decades Survived

Updated: Dec 19, 2021

January 2018: American Airlines-LAX Terminal 5

My high school guidance counselor gave me a 'Career Aptitude' Test in Fall of 1996 that would forever change the course of my life. If I reunited with her I would most likely share my nursing journey over the past 2 decades, specifically what I've learned over the past 2 years.

Personal Protective Equipment 'PPE' was always woven into the fabric of my profession. These gloves, gowns, & masks are provided to us nurses to 'minimize' illness and exposures. The United States Department of Labor website states that all PPE should be maintained in a clean and reliable fashion. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards require employers to provide personal protective equipment, when it is necessary to protect employees from job-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. At the beginning of this worldwide Pandemic there were so many blurred lines. I wasn't sure if we would be able to protect ourselves from this deadly virus, one with a name that will forever haunt us.

Were we going to run out of masks? Were we going to be expected to transition to hospital nurses to care for the infected? What happens if we infect our coworkers? How often would I be expected to get Covid tested? No one knew the answers, we were told different things every day, every week. The new information would come out in our daily iCommander briefing email. Most of the time our leadership didn't know day to day what to tell us. We were flexed down to a few days a week after our department shut down the clinic to in-person appointments. Things were transitioning into a virtual domain in the outpatient nursing setting, though the nurses couldn't work from home due to the inability of the hospital to provide the resources to do that. We had to continue to commute to work. At the point we were provided with masks, we were instructed to use only 1 mask the entire work day. There were so many nurses diagnosed with Covid in the Emergency Department at one point I believe they considered having to turn patients away. In addition to our daily work emails were the news briefings from Los Angeles County and other news stations around the world we were watching to stay on top of what to expect. On top of serving our patients we were being bombarded and overwhelmed with fear, anxiety, worry and constant shifts in the way we would deliver care.

You can see my hair thinning in this picture above. Just one of many trying to hold it together, suppressing the fear and worry deep inside to keep moving forward. The colored paper wristband wrapped around the top of my badge another reminder of the first several months of the pandemic. In order to start our workday we had to show the 'green' display screen on our phones testifying we didn't have symptoms of Covid to allow the screeners to provide us our new colored wristband and our 1 mask for the day. Reminded me of a scene from a military type of operation.

Working for the first decade of my nursing career at a huge Dallas hospital really helped me appreciate the order and collaboration it takes to run such a huge operation during a disaster. It truly has felt like this whole pandemic has been one big external disaster. Do you remember the time last year the US had to construct makeshift hospitals and refrigerated morgues all over the country? Remember on March 27th, 2020 when the Naval Ship Mercy entered the Port of Los Angeles to treat non-COVID-19 patients? It was a part of a plan to free up land-based hospitals to respond to the coronavirus crisis.

You can see by my eyes in this photo I was a bit exhausted. We were ALL exhausted. All of healthcare was fatigued. This was the first day I received my Pfizer Covid vaccine, December 2020. So many emotions were running through me that day. I was excited, terrified, relieved and also felt much guilt. Guilt because I was one of the first people to receive a vaccine that would most likely prevent severe illness or death. I knew I may still contract the virus, but after this point I knew my mortality wasn't as close as it had seemed previously. Our world seemed that it was racing towards the end of this pandemic. I was hopeful we would soon live in a world free from Covid-19.

Fast forward 1 year and here we are still in the grips of this evil virus, as it branches off into other strains Delta and Omicron. As I type this new blog today I am in the grips of the Covid-19 virus personally. I received my booster, my 3rd Pfizer Covid-19 shot, less than 3 months ago. Just when I thought I was immune and might have escaped the enemy that haunted me for the past 2 years it has arrived. It's only goal is to seek it's host, infect it rapidly and conquer. Well, not today my Covid-19 enemy. You may have found me, but I will not let you take me down. I have at least two more decades to continue caring for the Children of our Future. That's worth fighting for!!

Suggestions for avoiding burnout:

  • stay connected with others

  • shift your standards

  • set boundaries for yourself

  • schedule time for yourself

  • change your environment

  • move your body

  • list your fears

Stay beautiful, unique and inspired

--Erika Lee Kline lives in beautiful Pasadena, California. She is fitness minded & enjoys hiking, biking, paddleboarding and wall climbing. She is a fully embodied Empath, a human rights advocate, ballroom/Latin dancer, a student of human behavior and an MI Practitioner. She is a Pediatric Diabetes Nurse working in Los Angeles at a Children's Hospital. You can find her on Clubhouse, TikTok & Instagram.

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