They've been hailed the heroes of the pandemic.
But according to a Sydney ICU nurse, healthcare workers have not been treated with the same respect.
"We wonder what our value is sometimes because it feels like health workers are the canaries in the coal mine."
"And I can tell you, we're very sick canaries," Michelle Rosentreter, a senior ICU nurse at a Sydney metropolitan hospital and member of the New South Wales Nurses and Midwives' Association told Mamamia.
Michelle is one of the thousands of ICU nurses working long hours to keep an understaffed health care system afloat.
It's a system she describes as "stressed and pressured".
"Since the pandemic, our workloads have significantly increased and patient numbers in our ICU, and every other specialty, has been terribly burdened."
Meanwhile, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says our health system "remains strong".
It's a comment that doesn't sit right with many healthcare workers, says Michelle.
"They're very cross... ambulances are struggling, all areas are burdened. I don't know why you would call it very strong."
"I think the premier has to spend more than one day looking at statistics and actually spend a week in emergency... and let him see with his own eyes what is strong and what is not," she added.
"We have a beautiful, compassionate workforce. But [the government] is using the personality of nurses and healthcare workers to pump up what is not a sustainable healthcare system at this stage of the pandemic."
Michelle, who has been working as a nurse for 20 years, says one problem is hospitals are considered the frontline of the pandemic.
"The sentiment amongst the nurses and midwives of the hospital I work at, is that we shouldn't be the frontline for the pandemic. Hospitals are there to treat, manage and stabilise admissions, regardless of a diagnosis of COVID-19. And we would argue that the frontline is, in fact, your GPs and your community testing clinics."
Instead, a bulk of the burden is falling to the busy nurses of the ICU units, who are working around eight to eighteen hour shifts to care for patients.
While on shift, Michelle and other nurses are busy preparing equipment and beds for patients, troubleshooting problems, assisting with personal hygiene, delivering medications, attending to medical emergencies and keeping in contact with families whose loved ones are in the ICU.
While ICU nurses usually care for one patient at a time, Michelle says they can easily find themselves looking after two.
"I don't like to be put in that position at all as it's incredibly stressful," she shared. "The whole reason we do this job and love this job is because we want to provide the best bedside nursing care that we can. And stresses mean that that's not always possible."
Unfortunately, those stresses may get even worse as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise.