(Last Updated On: March 19, 2020)
I’ve been hesitant to write this, especially because I don’t 100% know how I feel about coronavirus and the hysteria surrounding it. But today on Instagram, unfortunately I was attacked for stating my own opinions and so I thought it time to express what my opinion actually is.
To start… I am a NICU nurse and have been for the past 5 years. I have been a travel nurse for 3 of those years and have worked coast to coast as well as having volunteered in Macedonia teaching nurses how to care for premature babies. I have worked in many different conditions, under different kinds of stressors, and have always come out on top. There isn’t a lot that rattles me, which is both good and bad. The bad side is that as a nurse, seeing what we see day in and day out I’ve become a bit immune to it all. The diseases, infections, and bad things happen to incredible people. I’ve been in some pretty devastating and unfair situations and I’m always impressed with how people act in the face of adversity. And most of my strength comes from these parents that I see come to the NICU each and everyday and care for their sick, premature babies.
BUT…. not only am I a NICU nurse, I am an avid traveler! In fact, I took a 5-month hiatus in 2018 to go on a SOLO journey throughout Europe and Southeast Asia. And I have many exciting travel plans coming up in 2020. I consider nursing to be my “profession” and travel to be my sanity in order to keep my profession. Plus I whole-heartedly believe that to prevent nurse burnout we need to get out of the hospital and take care of ourselves. I choose to do that by traveling!
Before I go further I just want to reiterate that this is an OPINION piece. I am not stating that I know more than anyone else (I don’t), but I think it’s healthy and OK to be able to state your personal opinion. For up to date information regarding the coronavirus I highly encourage you to visit CDC.gov.
When news started to spread about an outbreak happening in Wuhan, China I didn’t give it much thought. Aside for feeling bad for people affected by this outbreak, I personally didn’t read much into it. And certainly couldn’t have predicted the amount of attention it would get in coming months. Nor predicted the amount of people outside of China who would eventually be affected by this virus.
Once the virus started to spread and it was named – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – my ears began to perk up a bit more. But before I go further, did you know that there are more common human coronaviruses out there? More common cornoaviruses give you symptoms such as a running nose, cough, fever, etc… what we generally refer to as the common cold. Plus it’s believed that humans are infected with these more common coronaviruses one or more times in their lives. (These include 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1).
Once the virus started to spread a lot of hateful things began to happen and I believe that a mass frenzy was created, which has been completely unhelpful. First off, I’ve noticed a lot of xenophobia occur. For those who don’t know, xenophobia by definition means: “dislike or prejudice against people from other countries”. People were beginning to treat Asians as if they were the reason that this has happened. News check… they are not the reason. And it doesn’t matter the color of your skin, your height, your sex, or anything else… coronavirus can affect anyone and everyone. Coronovirus doesn’t even care about your paycheck; Tom Hanks and his wife have been diagnosed!
And while I think that media attention is important, in this case I believe that people have reacted to the media in a mass craze and it has done the opposite of help. It has caused fear and anxiety and people have started acting irrational. People have begun to buy up toilet paper, sanitary gel, and more! More importantly, however, is that people have begun to purchase face masks that should be used for healthcare workers. Not for you to wear at home and on the streets. (This does not apply to those who are immunocompromised). Did you know that now hospitals are facing a face mask shortage? That those people who are on the first line, fighting this virus and treating your loved ones are now being placed in unsafe conditions all because you irrationally bought a bulk amount of face masks to wear?
On Instagram I stated that, “I’m very upset that this has gained so much attention in the media. ESPECIALLY compared with everything the world is facing. Climate change, war, etc.” I stand by that and I am upset that these huge issues that people have been fighting for for a very long time haven’t gained as much attention as the coronoavirus. But does that mean that I think that the coronavirus is unimportant? Heck freaking no. Nothing that can harm others, make people sick, and cause death is unimportant. But there are a lot of things day in and day out that can harm others and cause death. Including guns, suicide, RSV, the flu, and more.
On Instagram I also stated (before the travel ban was set in place), “I plan to continue on with life how I normally would. For all I know I could die next week in a car accident! I think it’s important to remember that life is short and precious and not to let fear keep you from living.” Which again… I stand by. I didn’t mean this in a selfish tone or an insensitive way. I truly mean that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. All that we can control is the present moment. I do think that it is irresponsible, however, not to take necessary precautions. Wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and most importantly – stay at home if you’re feeling unwell! Did you know that the coronavirus has a 2 to 14 day incubation period? That means that you could be a carrier and not show any signs or symptoms for up to 2-weeks. Of note, the signs and symptoms of coronavirus are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
So what is my opinion on all of this? As a nurse, my opinion is simple. Keep showing up, take extra care of yourself, and stay at home if you feel unwell. We are prepared for this and this is what we have signed up for. To help others, and God knows… it’s a time when others need help. But when you’re not working, nourish yourself. Whether that’s by taking a bubble bath, opening a bottle of wine, or going on a walk. Do what you need to do on your days off to be the best nurse you can be when you’re at work.
But as a traveler I have two different opinions. As stated earlier, we can only control the present moment. I don’t believe in cancelling plans far in advance because this is such a rapidly changing situation. I do believe that we should go out and live our lives! When the dust start to settle, we should take that dream trip that we’ve worked so hard to afford. We should go visit friends and see the world if that’s what we desire to do. But I also believe in being extremely cautious. While I don’t advise to be traveling at this very moment in time, if you choose to travel, don’t go home and hang out with your Grandma right away. Sanitize your tray on the airplane. And most importantly… follow the law! There has now been a travel ban placed and we need to respect that and take this time to do other things that we love and find other ways nourish our souls. If we take this time to all social isolate then we can beat COVID-19 sooner rather than later.
So my opinion? It’s okay to feel two different ways about coronavirus. It isn’t selfish or unfair to want to travel. And it isn’t selfish or unfair to want to stay home. What isn’t okay or productive? Attacking others just because you have a different opinion. It’s okay to have an open conversation but it’s important to respect whoever it is that you’re speaking to. Different opinions are what make the world go around and life interesting after all.
So stay safe, sanitize, foster relationships, nourish your body, and refer to the CDC for the most up to date and accurate information.
Oh… and to the dude who told me, “….you could spread it through your selfishness to someone’s parent/grandparent just so you can post a cute picture on the gram to fuel your ego”…. My ego isn’t fueled by pictures I choose to post on my Instagram. My ego is fueled by putting narcissistic assholes like you in place. And my love of travel came well before Instagram ever did.