I am a Nurse.
A few months ago, that statement would have come with a mundane reply. Maybe a few follow up questions but nothing too extra. Now, I tell people I am a nurse and I hear statements like “Thank you”, “You are a hero”. “I am proud of you and your work”… and so on and so forth. Now I am classified as an essential worker. A frontline worker. People are clapping for me and my colleagues on balconies, sirens are turned on to celebrate us, celebrities are recognising the work we do, world leaders are making speeches to thank us. Yet, amidst all these, I cannot but think “what really changed?”
When the news of corona virus first started going round, I remember thinking and even saying to a few close friends that I have seen worse diseases and I was not too bothered about it. But then, within the space of a few weeks, things started to explode. Borders closed, lockdown orders imposed, case numbers started to rise exponentially…It all seemed like something out of a movie, only this time, I was in the middle of it all, or rather, at the frontlines.
Things started to change at work. New policies and procedures introduced everyday. Ban on visitors and elective procedures. It is eerily quiet, yet, there seems to be this ‘thing’ hanging over our heads. This fear that things could go very wrong in such a short amount of time. They call it ‘the calm before the storm’. We keep hearing stories of the impact of this disease on healthcare workers in hard hit areas. Everyone is anxious. It is a novel virus so everyone, including the people in charge, are grasping at little bits of information here and there and figuring their way out through it all. PPE has become a priced possession, something we ration. Coming to work is becoming a routine that brings about a certain level of anxiety.
Then came one of my biggest challenges and one of the main aims of writing this article – IMPOSTER SYNDROME.
According to Wikipedia, Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud. In lay man’s terms, it simply means feeling like you don’t deserve the success/accolades you are getting for your work. I am sure a lot of us have felt like this one time or the other. Getting a new job you feel you don’t deserve and constantly feeling like someone someday will discover you and call you out for the fraud you are. And that is exactly how I have been feeling lately.
I work in a relatively smaller city that has not been hit as hard by the pandemic (knock on wood). Most of the active cases we have in the city are mild and do not require hospitalisation. A lot of people are also scared to come to the hospital for fear of being exposed to COVID 19.That, combined with the hold put on elective procedures has made for a very quiet yet fully staffed medicine unit. In short, I am not as busy as I was pre pandemic. And that exactly is where the imposter syndrome comes in.
All these kudos I get make me feel, guilty. The messages from family and friends checking up on me, telling me how proud they are of me, the discounts from certain restaurants and stores, the claps, all the minor perks of being a frontline worker at this period. I can’t but feel I don’t deserve all of these. I am not busy. Things are not that bad here yet. Many of the times, I get all these kudos, I feel like a fraud. I sometimes don’t capitalise on these offers to avoid the guilt I feel afterwards.
What I am learning.
I am learning to be more intentional about my thoughts. I am learning to define myself by what I think about myself and not what the society thinks about me.
Nursing has always been a tough job. Everyday I go to work hoping I don’t bring home any infections or germs. I deal with sick people every shift. I have dealt with even more contagious diseases and sicker patients. If dealing with infectious diseases is the criteria for being a hero, then I have always been a hero. Everyday I put on my scrubs and go to work despite all the risks I know I could potentially be exposed to. I touch my patients, I assess them, I don’t run away from them. I am with them when they are most vulnerable. That makes me a hero in my own right. Maybe the society is just waking up to this realisation. Maybe it had to take a pandemic for them to realise it. But even when this is all over, and the discounts go, I will still be a nurse, I will still be a hero.
Thanks for reading and please leave a comment about your thoughts or times you have experienced Imposter syndrome