You know those pictures of the ocean receding that precedes a tsunami? People playing and holding up their cellphones like it’s some kind of freakish low tide – and then the tsunami rolls in, its immense power destroying everything in its path.
That’s what it feels like in ERs all over the U.S. right now – it certainly does in mine. I’ve never seen the census so low, day after day. We still get our COVID patients, but nothing like what we experienced in March and April. And it appears that everyone else is avoiding us like the plague.
Here in NYC I kind of get it – the deaths were widely reported in the media, understandably scaring the shit out of the public. Who wants to sit in an ER surrounded by people dying from a contagious virus?
But it just feels weird. Where are all the heart attacks and strokes? They didn’t just stop – are people really staying home instead of seeking treatment?
To make the whole thing even weirder, my hospital hired a significant number of travelers – nurses who come in for a few weeks to support overwhelmed staff. The problem, however, was that they came in after the first wave had died down (perhaps a poor choice of words). So we went from Armageddon with no staff to a low census with too much staff in a short period of time.
And of course their contracts will soon end, just as the quarantine restrictions begin to loosen. So we know there will continue be a outbreaks in waves. What happens in the fall is anyone’s guess…
All I know is that it makes me feel uneasy. Maybe it’s because of what my ER just went through, or perhaps it’s a bit of PTSD beginning to rear its ugly head.
But I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit.