The other day at work in the hospital, a patient asked me if I’d had a good Christmas.
"Yes, I did," I replied simply. But that was a lie.
My partner tested positive for COVID a few days before Christmas, so I spent Christmas Day alone in isolation as a close contact like thousands of other Australians.
After two negative PCR tests, I was out of isolation on December 28. (A 'perk' of my job is getting PCR results back as a priority, but that’s only so they can get us back to work faster). I got to go and see my family and the next day, I was back to work.
Watch: The signs to use when talking about COVID-19. Post continues below.
I’ve heard the patient who asked me about my Christmas making conversation with other staff, and I’m sure it’s helping her to deal with being in hospital in a pandemic and not being allowed any visitors.
So why didn’t I answer her question truthfully? Because being in isolation when I was supposed to be enjoying a nice long weekend was hard, and not getting the short break that I was looking forward to has meant going back to work feeling even more tired than I was before.
The hospital is so busy at the moment that I couldn’t acknowledge how I was feeling in case it slowed me down. I had to keep moving, keep working.
I know that the past two years have been difficult for everyone, but healthcare workers have faced so many challenges over this time.
Along with the challenges of lockdowns and toilet paper shortages, we’ve been working in busy hospitals with constant changes in our work.
Staff working in COVID wards were spending hours on end in full PPE, learning how to care for patients with a virus about which there is still so much to learn.
Many were working out of their comfort zone as changes were made in other areas of the hospital to allow for the creation of COVID wards, or transitioning to telehealth to care for patients and having to provide tech support along with healthcare.
Whilst we’re now all vaccinated, we still worry about catching COVID at work or catching it in the community and giving it to vulnerable patients.
Many staff are burnt out. After what we dealt with in 2021, we all needed a break, but so few of us have had one. Aside from weekends and public holidays, I wasn’t taking any extra time off. That would have been the same for many staff, and a lot of them have now ended up working overtime to cover for staff shortages as staff have been off work with COVID or as close contacts.