BILLINGS — Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers have been on the front lines working long hours and seeing an increased number of patients. With these increased duties, some nurses and other healthcare workers have experienced increased stress.
“With more people than we’re used to coming in as patients, it’s been a hard psychological toll,” said Amanda Peterson, a nurse at Billings Clinic.
Peterson began working as a nurse only months before the pandemic began and says she has experienced a lot of adversity in her roughly two years as a nurse.
“We had our quarterly check ins, and I went in there and I just told them, I'm having a really hard time. I feel drained, I feel like my bucket is not full at all,” said Peterson, recalling a conversation she had with her managers.
Stressed healthcare workers experiencing too much adversity is one reason hospitals nationwide are dealing with a nursing shortage.
The shortage has been no different at Billings Clinic, which currently has around 100 vacant nursing positions. Some have left, retired early, and the hospital was already short staffed before the pandemic began.
Peterson says healthcare providers have realized that if they don’t take care of themselves, they can’t take care of others.
“It’s one of those things where, as nurses and healthcare providers, a lot of us have had to step back and say, hey, if I need some time away, I need to take that time away and then I can come back, be refreshed, and put 100% of myself into the job. We’re here 12, 13, or 14 hours depending on if we stay late, and that’s a long time to be in charge of other people’s lives,” said Peterson.
Despite the tough times, there have been acts of kindness that Peterson says have helped she and her colleagues power through.
Things such as thank-you notes written on the Billings Clinic sidewalk in chalk and signs around town thanking healthcare workers help ease the burden.
“Little things like that outside in the community, even just acknowledging, like hey, what you’re doing right now is really hard, so thank you for that. Even just a little kindness will go a long way in a lot of places right now,” said Peterson.
Small gestures can mean a lot to nurses like Peterson.