What healthcare is like right now

This is my own perspective, and does not represent my employer.
I have been seeing COVID posts and COVID vaccine posts shared by those not in health care. I am NOT a frontline employee. I work in data as support staff. From where I sit, this is what has occurred in healthcare since the pandemic began.

COVID hit. Healthcare workers became heroes. Frontline nurses and doctors died, got sick, and many worked 12+ hour days helping patients in need. Cleaning staff worked diligently to maintain any spread. Some hospitals had to shut down non-critical services, which resulted in layoffs. Support staff worked extra hours to decrease the burden of the shortage. Supplies ran out. No masks. Few ventilators. Eventually, the first wave ended.

An entire testing and lab ordering system was built up with amazing speed. New treatments emerged, and we hoped for a slow down. Data and dashboard tracking arrived. Non-critical services re-opened. But a second wave hit. This time, fewer patients seemed to die. However, nurses and docs were called to the rescue again. Vaccine development was pushed. The second wave slowed.

And a third wave rolled in. Treatments were better, lab results faster. Yet, nurses, docs, and support staff were called on again. But this time, they were getting tired and burned out. Nursing is largely female, and  many nurses are mothers. It was impossible for many to maintain work, family, and the stress of remote education. Doctoring is already a stressful position. A third wave made the stress worse. The health care workforce started to dwindle. Hospital beds stayed full. Outpatient areas stayed busy. Thankfully, vaccines became authorized for emergency use! We started to rejoice at the thought of science overcoming COVID. And again – the wave started to subside.

Things were calm for a minute as people made their choice on getting vaccinated. Vaccines brought needed joy to a burdened workforce. But then health care had to make a difficult choice.

Many patients refused treatment if their healthcare provider wasn’t vaccinated. Yet, some (15-30%ish) of healthcare workers weren’t ready yet. Health care started requiring the vaccine.

The mandated vaccine caused a lot of tough discussions. Some healthcare workers got the vaccine because they had to. Some refused for their religion. Some protested, saying they felt their freedom to choose was infringed upon. Others who were vaccinated got upset. They didn’t want to work with people that wouldn’t get vaccinated. Some patients were grateful to know their healthcare provider was vaccinated. Other patients were upset a vaccine was mandated.

Hospital floors lost more staff. Outpatient areas called agencies begging for nurses. But there are no nurses left. Doctors are exhausted, burned out, and tired. A crisis looms.

And now – the fourth wave is hitting. Floors are full of patients as healthcare struggles to maintain a grip on a hellish pandemic. Some supplies are dwindling again. Ventilators are being counted in case they run out. Capacity is full.

I share this not to scare anyone, but the reality is hard. Right now, healthcare needs your love, kindness, and support. It is needed now more than ever.

If you want to help, spread kindness, and do all you can to maintain your health. If you know a Frontline staff worker, thank them and just listen. They need you, and they need us.

On rounding up…

Five years ago I listened to a man on NPR talk about his fear of failure. Do you ever listen to something you know to resonate within your soul, but not know how to take action on?

Five years ago I listened to a man on NPR talk about his fear of failure. Do you ever listen to something you know to resonate within your soul, but not know how to take action on?

The man talked about how he felt like his entire life he never failed, and he thrived off his own perfection. However, eventually, he had a break down when he could not keep up with unrealistic standards. Of course, the problem with perfection is: it’s impossible.

My office mates have been teasing me for weeks, “Is everything you do perfect?”

My husband tells me, “You never mess up. I wish you would sometimes.”

The toll of my own perfection is exceptionally exhausting.

Never miss an email, return every call, every decimal point is rounded perfectly, every color combination matches, and no word is spoken out of turn.

My inner critic has no end to my own faults. I ask Del five times a day if I’m a bad mom. Yesterday I asked if I was a bad mom because I was washing Carly’s bottles instead of holding her. Facebook has taught me that if you don’t spend every minute of your life staring at your child, you will miss SOMETHING and regret whatever other thing you were doing in the minute.

Friends of mine came up with the term “round up.” Research shows that women consistently underestimate our abilities. We don’t apply for jobs unless we meet most criteria, and we don’t push for raises unless we’re 1,000% certain we deserve them. Instead of underestimating our internal (and numeric) value, we need to round up.

A few weeks ago, I took a day off of work because I was exhausted. One day turned into two. Then, the week-end hit, and I spent most of it sleeping. My brain finally hit the breaking point. Between being a wife, motherhood, and work, the voice telling me I was not doing enough – and I was not doing it perfectly – burned me out.

I spent a long time thinking of my inner critic. It’s that idiotic little voice telling me nothing is quite as good as it could be. My hair is straight, but there are a few strands always out of place. That report is 98% perfect, but that 2% is enough to ruin everything. After careful consideration, I know where the voice arose and how it kept growing. But honestly – that is all too much to process in one blog post.

But knowing the source, I did something different: I finally gave up.

I put a sign on my computer last week: “Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.”

Last week I hit send on emails with typos. Last week I stopped overthinking my answers at work and just started muttering. I had a few Facebook posts without commas, a few reports where the font in the table didn’t match the font in the body. But somehow, the world kept turning and no one died.

As it turns out, the inner critic was never keeping me safe – it was holding me back. He should have been telling me I’m beautiful, talented, and my level of detail is unparalleled. But he’s kind of an ass face, and does not like to say nice things.

Lent is upon us. One year I gave up drinking a pack of cherry cola a day. For four years I tried to give up swearing (but that shit never takes….). This year, I’m giving up on my inner critic, and my implausible quest for unattainable perfection. I’m going to think less, react from my gut, and start to tell myself “Damn girl – round up! You got this.”

 

Day two of Steph & Del’s crazy diet plan…

DAY 2: REPORT…

Day two of our crazy diet plan – a plan to follow the food plate for seven straight days.  The plan was inspired after finding that after seven straight days of working out and getting enough sleep left us feeling

AMAZING…

We were up at 4:45am and on an elliptical at Planet Fitness for a cardio workout by 5:15am.  Boom.

Whilst increasing our cardiovascular endurance we discussed two things: 1) what we are going to eat for the day and 2) how we were feeling about the crazy workout plan.

THE MENU…

Breakfast (same as yesterday)

¾ c granola

1 c milk

1 c OJ

Lunch

1 c veggies

Leftover salmon or (3/4 c

Leftover couscous or bread (2 slices)

Dinner (we are having two people over for dinner)

Whole grain pizza (2 slices each)

Chicken (as a pizza topping)

Cream cheese & Cheese (on the pizza)

Salad as a side

HOW WE ARE FEELING…

The biggest change Del noticed was “long-lasting energy.”  He noticed that he was somewhat hungry yesterday, but that he felt like he has more sustained energy throughout the day.

I too just felt better in general.  I am not sure if I feel better because I ate well – or if I feel better because I am eating well.  In other terms, I don’t know if I am feeling better because of improved eating habits.  Or if I am feeling better because I like knowing I am eating in a healthier way.  Whether it is the food or all in my brain – I like it.

PUBLIC FOOD DENIAL…

Today at work my co-worker had a “Birthday brunch” to celebrate January birthdays for the office.  Yesterday at work, Del had a coffee tasting with cookies available to munch on.  Because we are doing this crazy diet plan, we had to practice some self-denial and turn down treats that we otherwise would have indulged in.  Instead of opting for “pineapple stuffing” (which I guess is a thing now), I opted for my 1 cup of fruit.  Instead of going for a whole cookie, Del had a smaller serving of the cookie.  Oh, that sacrifices we make.

WE SHALL SEE…

We are having a couple over for dinner tonight.  They may or may not know we are doing this crazy diet plan.  However, whether they know it or not – they will be partaking in the food pyramid.  I am going to have extra food (and dessert) for them.  Yet I am curious to see how this will go once you throw in making dinner for two other people.

IN SUM…

We are feeling good – in spite of having to turn down cookie and pineapple stuffing.  Now let’s see how it goes once we add deux….

On day 1 of Steph & Del’s crazy diet plan…

It is implementation day of our seven diet plan.  I should briefly recap that last week we felt so amazing after getting seven hours of sleep and exercising for sixty minutes each day that we decided to change our diet plan.  By “diet plan” I don’t mean “weight-loss plan.”  I mean we developed a crazy idea to follow the food plate (no longer a pyramid) to see if after seven days we felt really good and healthy.  Thus far, we have bought the food, wrote out what we will eat, and as of 4:55am (the time we woke up to go work out) have begun eating.

DIET PREPARATION: Thoughts

On the set-up… Setting up a new eating scheme totally sucks.  To start, the whole plate thing is in ounces and cups, whereas every other food pyramid in the world is in servings.  So I have had to break out my high school science metric changeover skills (which I haven’t used since I learned them) in order to figure out what we can eat and then what we can buy.  If we are going to stick with this, we will need a food scale ASAP.
On buying fish… Buying fish – sucks.  We live in the Midwest.  I am not about to spend $15 a pound for a fish, so my only two options are salmon and tilapia (#firstworldproblems).  Meh.  Salmon it is.

On staying in budget… At the checkout – I totally stayed within budget.  Whoever said eating healthy is more expensive is totally an idiot, or worked for Frito Lay.  For $4.00 – I could get any ONE of the following HEALTY items: four pounds of carrots, four heads of lettuce, eight cucumbers, five pounds of apples, or five pounds of oranges. For $4.00 – I could get any ONE of the following UNHEALTHY items: a large bag of Doritos, four liters of soda, one container of ice cream, or a large bag of chocolate chips.   My point is, per pound – healthy food is much more affordable.  You get more, and you don’t feel like going into a diabetic coma afterwards.

On sugar… My biggest dietary dilemma is that amount of sugar I consume.  I do well at not pigging out and not eating fatty stuff.  However #SugarIsMyBFF.  However, on this diet, you are only supposed to consume 120 calories per day from sugar (single tear rolls down my cheek).  Since I drink coffee with cream AND SUGAR every single day, I have made the decision that my daily sugar intake will come in this form.

“Oh yeah” moment… I was talking to a friend about the idea when she mentioned what I forgot.  She noted “Well, seven days isn’t really enough to feel the full impact of the diet.”  Del and I should have thought of that, but didn’t.  We discussed the thought and came to the conclusion that we would try this for seven days.  Depending on how we felt after that, we might keep it and keep going – or try something else really crazy.

DAY 1 REPORT: Plan and reactions to day one of the food plate diet

Breakfast… 3/4c granola, 1c milk, 1c orange juiceSnack… 2 orangesLunch… 1c broccoli, 1/2c chicken, 1/4c cheese, 2oz tortillasDinner… 1/2c salmon, 1c couscous (I am so cool), 1c brussel sprouts

By lunch I feel hungry.  I want sugar.  I want sugar in the form of chocolate – or a chewy granola bar – or some Doritos.  I think there are sugar packs in the drawer below the coffee maker…. Be right back….

By lunch Del feels… tired.  I should mention that we both got seven hours of sleep and worked out for an hour this morning.  A decision is quickly made that this is not enough food.

WINNER WINNER SALMON FOR DINNER:

OVERALL REPORT: Conclusions

Set up was a pain, but change can be painful.  We stayed in budget.  We planned it out.  We are both hungry and need to up these ounces.  Now on to day two…………..