The last year and a half have been stressful for all of us, but no group of people is more stressed out than healthcare workers. Understandably, doctors, nurses, and hospital staff are burned out — physically exhausted and psychologically spent. This latest wave of COVID-19 with the Delta variant has brought in a whole new wave of sick people, with too many young folks and too many who refused a vaccine that could have protected them from severe infection. They have held the hands of the dying and reluctantly said “No, I’m sorry,” when a person who couldn’t breathe begged for the vaccine they’d previously believed would microchip them or make them infertile.
For the majority of healthcare workers, the pandemic, and the precautions the public should be taking to mitigate it, is not political. When they’re trying to make you well, they are not thinking about who you voted for or whether or not you used to think COVID was a hoax. They may be frustrated and saddened over the folks who refused the vaccine that could have saved their lives, but even then, it’s still not political. They have sworn to heal, and that is their primary objective.
Despite that, every day that this pandemic rages on, healthcare workers are subject to abuse, ingratitude, and distrust from patients, the family of patients, and the general public. They are screamed at and called horrible names. When they share their stories via their social media platforms, red-faced, teary-eyed, and exhausted, they are accused of lying or of being paid crisis actors or of being “in on it.”
Healthcare workers are exhausted, and they need our support now more than ever. Here are 11 ways you can support your local healthcare workers.
1. When They Share Their Experiences, Believe Them
When a healthcare worker shares their experience of watching people die or tells you their ICU unit is overrun, believe them, and tell them you believe them. Let them know you are listening. And when someone else calls them a liar, tell that person to shut up. Stick up for our healthcare workers, and let them see you doing it. Make sure they know you support them.
2. Send Food
At first, this seemed like an impractical suggestion. But when I asked my healthcare worker followers on social media what people could do to show their appreciation, sending food actually came up a bunch of times. “A year and a half ago, when we showed up to work we often were treated to things like pizza, smoothies, sandwiches, etc from local businesses or from private donors who sent it through local businesses,” Heather, a healthcare worker from Michigan says. “That dried up real quick, but our workload has not changed.”
So have some tasty food delivered to your local hospital’s COVID unit. Even if they can’t enjoy it during their busy shift, they can take some home. And the gesture — knowing that someone out there thought of them — is meaningful.
3. Send Handwritten Notes Or Cards
“I really just love the hand-written notes,” Katherine, an ER nurse from Kansas City wrote. “Especially when they are written by kiddos.” This suggestion came up several times. Our healthcare workers are emotionally exhausted, so sometimes being able to read the words of people who appreciate their dedication can be just the lift they need.
4. Pay For Them
If you’re out and about and you see an exhausted-looking person wearing scrubs and sporting a mask indent around their mouth, pay for their groceries or coffee or lunch. It’s a small way to say thank you and show your support.
5. Say “Thank You”
Say it out loud. Healthcare workers don’t hear it enough.
6. Don’t Start Debates With Them
These people are literally watching people die of COVID. They are bled on, peed on, and yelled at, all while running around for 13 hours at a time trying to keep people alive. “The last thing we want to do in our time off,” one nurse said in my comments, “is argue about covid.” I would argue that they don’t want to argue during their shift either. So if you’re an anti-masker or anti-vaxxer, zip it.
7. Be Kind
“People who don’t work in healthcare will never understand,” says Heather, a healthcare worker who lives in Michigan. “Please just show us kindness and patience and give us a little grace when we’re tired and grumpy.”
8. Send Gift Cards
An alternative to having food delivered to a COVID-19 ward would be to send gift cards. Gather a group of friends on social media or from your church or your book club and raise some funds, everyone just contributing whatever they’re able. Once you’ve gathered $1,500 or so, split it into 15 gift cards of $100 each, or however the math makes the most sense. Again, it’s about the gesture as much as it is about the gift itself.
9. Send PPE
Call your specific local hospital to verify this and to see exactly what the need is, but several responders to my social post said they never have enough PPE at their facility and would very much appreciate donations.
10. Be Patient
“Recognize that we’re running on fumes,” one commenter said. “When the world ‘opened back up,’ we started trying to catch up (elective healthcare that was delayed).” Remember that healthcare workers aren’t just dealing with a flood of COVID-19 patients. They’re also still trying to get to all the elective or non-emergent medical procedures that were put off during earlier waves of the pandemic.
11. But Try To Avoid *Being* A Patient
Listen to your physician. Don’t go to the ER for small things. Mask up around anyone you don’t live with. Get vaccinated. Adhere to social distancing guidelines. Take the expert-recommended precautions to keep yourself and your family out of the damn hospital. As Katherine the ER nurse put it: “Not making me intubate you is the biggest thanks.”
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