Health Bulletin: Show care for those who care for you

Chair, Westfield Board of Health

By Juanita Carnes FNP, Board of Health chair

This one goes out to all the health care workers the world over. I want to shine the light on you. I have friends and family working in different health care roles from Maine to Boston, to Florida to Texas and California. I also have many friends and colleagues in hospitals, urgent care and other health care facilities here in Western Massachusetts and neighboring Connecticut. Amazing people, including receptionists, techs, medical assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, physician assistants, doctors and administrative staff, working hard to reduce losses caused by COVID. It doesn’t matter which one I talk to, there is a recurring theme of exhaustion with the pandemic and the suffering seen. But also everyone reports being subjected by the public to unwarranted, unkind, demanding manners. Last spring, we were called heroes.

Everyone has to make a living. One does not go into the health care field just for the paycheck. It is a challenging school/career choice and not for everyone. It requires continuing education, training and a giving of one’s self to a greater good. We enter this field to care for people who are sick. Those who are ill and under stress may not be at their best. We recognize and expect that. This is far different from that. The pandemic seems to have intensified a trend of blatantly rude and entitled behavior. I am more than familiar with patients being ill-mannered and aggressive, after many years in the emergency department. When I see patient after patient discourteous to the sweetest, most polite human being I have ever met working as the receptionist, it makes me think something bigger is going on with our society. More now than ever, I hope every health care worker knows in their soul that their job is important and necessary.

These are the professionals that will be caring for you, your family, neighbors and friends. These are the folks who will be responsible for saving your life, your parent’s life or your child’s life. They will be holding the hand of the dying and consoling the family. These are caregivers who have the education and training, and more importantly, heart and dedication to continue doing so in the worst of times and conditions. We risk our lives to save yours.

The health care field is not alone in feeling this negativity. Many from other businesses and occupations report the same sentiment. It seems to be a pandemic within a pandemic. This latest surge seems to accentuate the problem. A combination of fear, the unknown and fatigue causes everyone stress. The job is difficult on a good day. Imagine your best efforts to help someone being met with belligerence. Health care workers are leaving their jobs in droves. Who will take care of everyone?

My plea is to ask everyone to be kind, respectful, courteous and grateful. Realize the demands that have been put upon every health care facility and worker worldwide. Manage your stressors without taking it out on someone else. We have made it this far through the pandemic with many losses and challenges. How long will this ultimately last? No one truly knows. Don’t put additional burdens on those taking care of you. While you are at it, be nice, everywhere you go.

One may ask, is this really a public health topic for the newspaper during the COVID pandemic? Could I be called out for utilizing this column to give a shout out to my colleagues and hope to make a difference in how they are treated? Guilty as charged. Of course I am. One should ask, where would the public health be without the work of these dedicated individuals and health care workers as a whole? We don’t think we are heroes. We are just doing our job.

I appreciate each and every one of you: Stan, Cemil, Jacques, Brian, Ned, Craig, Caroline, Karin, Chris, Kristina, Heather, Courtney, Sandy, Deanna, Nick, Sara, Amy, Lisa, Ray, Casey, Beth, Elaine, Luci, Cara, Lori, Coppi, Emily, Becky, Wendy, Laura, Lynne, Kricket, Barbara, many others too numerous to list (you know who you are) and all health care workers worldwide as this pandemic surges. You are determined, unwavering, strong and caring. Without you, lives would be lost. You are the light in this darkness.

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