[OPINION] No to frontliner-shaming!
This was written for all frontliners in health care, by a non-frontliner.
This was also written for people whose social media posts are insults to the efforts and sacrifices of those working tirelessly to fight the menace that is COVID-19.
To start things, I am a registered nurse by profession and used to work in a government hospital. As a former health care worker, I know too well what life is like inside – the long work hours, the stress, the life-and-death battles, the demands made by patients and watchers alike, the risks and dangers (inevitable exposure to a number of infectious diseases while on duty, for example), and the occasional feelings of disappointment and frustration every time someone decides it's okay to downgrade the health care profession and be bold about it. Even proud. (READ: Evicted, banned from eateries: Frontliners face discrimination in Iloilo City)
1. "It's just their job!"
Reading this statement from posts by fellow Filipinos really strikes the heart. Health care is more than just a job, mind you. Aside from the necessary skills and knowledge, you need compassion, patience, and selflessness to be able to serve the sick, injured, and the dying. You must also be willing to sacrifice things like sleep and time for family. No other job in the world leaves you wanting to do more for those in your care, sometimes at the cost of your own peace of mind.
Upon arriving home after a toxic shift – especially after a patient's death – we'd ask ourselves things like, "What went wrong? What else could have been done? Did I use the right management? How are his/her family members dealing with things now? Was I a bad doctor/nurse?"
We love caring for our patients so much that more often than not, we end up going above and beyond our duty, like looking for extra medications and supplies to give to financially challenged patients or lending a listening ear to the anxious and depressed. (READ: Germany to fly in Filipino nurses to care for their coronavirus patients – report)
2. "Why glorify them? They are NOT special!"
Because of COVID-19, health care workers in the Philippines and all over the world are now in the spotlight. Before COVID-19, the health care profession was largely unappreciated. I actually feel happy that my fellow healthcare workers, especially my former workmates and supervisors, are now getting the attention and recognition they deserve. It's also heartwarming to know that for the past few days, individuals, groups, and government offices are showing support through donations like food and additional PPEs and services like free transportation and accommodation.
For the record, health care workers never asked to be "glorified," but to be simply appreciated and respected like other professionals. Please remember that they are also human beings working to help other human beings. They get tired, stressed, and even put in harm's way while on the job. And not just that, they also go through the pain of being separated from their families to prevent their loved ones from being exposed to COVID-19.
We need them and at the same time, they also need us. Kindness is free and makes things a lot better. If you can't help by making donations, at least avoid spreading hate and negativity towards their work through unkind words.
3. "They're only working for money!"
Now this one got me fuming. Yes, like any other regular person with a job, a health care worker has a family to feed. But it's never just about the salary, which sadly, gets delayed for a lot of them every now and then. They don't just work to earn a living; they work for human lives.
Know that no amount of money can ever replace the value of a single life. And while we're talking about a worldwide health threat like COVID-19, imagine the pain and pressure health care workers in largely affected countries like Italy and Iran are dealing with as we speak, with deaths here and there by the thousands. (READ: Long shifts, low pay are part of a PH nurse's reality)
4. "I don't give a f**k!"
Guess what? COVID-19 doesn't give a f**k either. It's a danger to everyone everywhere, especially for those who don't care enough to follow simple precautions like staying home, practicing proper hygiene, and being honest enough about their symptoms.
Just this weekend, a young nurse in Italy passed away as a result of being infected by COVID-19 while practicing her profession. A young Filipino doctor also passed away, all because of a patient who lied about his/her travel history. Before them, hundreds of healthcare workers have already lost their lives fighting COVID-19. All of them had families who depended on them. All of them had friends who adored them. All of them had workmates and colleagues who enjoyed their company, never to enjoy another day in their respective hospitals doing what they knew best – saving lives.
You don't have to be in health care to be able to feel something about their deaths. You just need to be a decent human being and it actually won't cost you much. Exhibiting apathy by saying things like "I don't care!" or "IDGAF!" only shows that you are a sorry excuse for a human. A heartless and brainless alien from another galaxy perhaps?
By disregarding (and even laughing at) the efforts of health care workers, you're actually killing their fallen comrades for the second time around.
While not all of us can be frontliners, we can choose to fight COVID-19 and support those on the front lines by doing what we can.
Whether you choose to donate food or PPEs, give a healthcare worker a ride home, give money for supplies, say prayers, write uplifting articles to spread awareness, or send healthcare workers letters of appreciation – it's all up to you. (READ: LIST: How to help healthcare workers, frontliners during coronavirus pandemic)
Always have this in mind:
Hate and negativity are weapons of the weak.
Love and perseverance are weapons of the strong and selfless.
Which weapons do you choose? – Rappler.com
Johanna Zehender is a registered nurse who writes to uplift nurses and fellow health care workers everywhere.