CRACKS – Head On

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Jennifer—Registered nurse
Acute, medical, bush nursing
Regional Victoria

We returned from seven wonderful years in Tasmania late 2019, settled in regional Victoria and began work at a local hospital and two bush nursing centres. We are in our early sixties and our plan was to slide into travel around Australia.

Then the bushfires happened. We emerged from this to be told about this thing called COVID. It progressed quickly. The hospital set up a COVID area. Granted, we don’t have ICU so we didn’t experience what the city hospitals went through, but we still had the discomfort of PPE, the anxiety, the lack of staff, double shifts, overtime to the extreme, bed closures, the emergency department banked up with ambulances and patient bed block (that’s when all the beds are full and you can’t bring more patients into hospital) because we had nowhere to send people because nursing homes were closed to admissions.

We have so many patients now who have slipped through the cracks because of COVID: cancer diagnoses too late to treat, poor chronic disease management so increased presentations of pneumonia, diabetes complications and heart attacks, the list goes on. It’s very sad and demoralising.

Rural people feel forgotten as we always do because our access to anything is poor. Through COVID, clients had even poorer access to food, medicine and healthcare. We don’t have public transport at the drop of a hat, or home grocery delivery or a supermarket in town. We have poor internet and mobile services.

Some nurses left because it was too much, some refused to get vaccinated so they couldn’t work, some changed their direction. Staff are packing up and leaving to travel with children. They’ve had enough—life is too short.

I am currently burnt out, frequently tearful, anxious, have niggling health issues. My ethics and morals are conflicting, my patience is poor. I feel guilty if I don’t pick up shifts, but I am trying to say, ‘No more.’ It’s frustrating. I survived, better than some, but it’s not easy. We are so tired.