Self Portrait of a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse

APNA News: The Psychiatric Nursing Voice  |  May 2020 Members' Corner Edition

Susan J. Gray, APN Susan J. Gray, APN reflects on being a psychiatric-mental health nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic:

COVID-19 has hit. Hospitals are bursting at the seams, asking health professionals to give more and more of their time.

I am a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, but always a psychiatric nurse for 40 years. I work 3 jobs caring for the psychiatric needs of patients. I love my work. It’s rewarding – however never really acknowledged or rewarded by the public.

Now there is a recognition of the danger nurses face. Food is pouring into hospitals; corporations are giving freebees and equipment. Signs are posted everywhere thanking doctors and nurses as well as support staff.

So why do I feel guilty?

I feel that I should somehow be on the front lines, hanging IVs putting people on respirators. Yet I cannot because I am not qualified and I have family that is immune compromised. I cannot because I am caring for people at 3 jobs and work 60 hours a week.

I feel unrecognized for the work that I am doing. Yet I never ask for recognition or thanks. My thanks comes from patients and families who report back to me how well they are doing. My sadness comes when I cannot save a life or make things better. But I remain silent. My own family is not really interested in the specifics of what I do. And so, I continue in hopes I make a difference.

As I was feeling sorry for myself, a former patient’s family member unexpectedly approached me and asked about whether I had been working in a hospital where her son was cared for in the past. She remembered my name after reading my ID badge and approached me. Her son had been my patient 2 years ago. He was brought into the hospital after laying on the train tracks to kill himself. I cared for him and he is now 2 years past his suicide attempt, working and doing well.

Suddenly, I felt valuable and proud to be helping others. Yes, indeed I have saved lives too.

So, in this time of uncertainty, remember that psychiatric-mental health nurses are needed to help heal the wounds that COVID-19 is creating in the mental health of the nation.  

Be proud of what you do. Psychiatric-mental health nurses rule!

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