New nurse shines light on trickle-down effect of burnout
'I want them to know I do care for them,' Doy Loulas says of patients and their families
Entering the nursing profession was an alluring idea for recent nursing graduate Doy Loulas.
Loulas, a registered nurse from Walpole Island, was hired part time at Chatham-Kent Health Alliance in the medicine unit in October 2020.
A graduate of the St. Clair College nursing program in southwestern Ontario and a mother of three, Loulas said she was prepared for the workload.
"It was the year of the nurse, it was during a global pandemic. We were qualified, we were registered. We were ready to go," Loulas said.
After a couple of months of working six shifts per pay week — essentially full time work, according to Loulas — she had to ask for minimal commitment.
While management was understanding of her request and offered three shifts per pay period, Loulas said she received daily calls to come into work because the hospital continued to be short-staffed.
"I was a brand new nurse — everything was new to me on top of that. I was starting to feel under the pressure," she said.
"The nurses that were there, the full-time ones, they're not getting their vacations. They're getting burned out as well and that trickles down to us new nurses who are just starting out."
Managing COVID-19 outbreaks, covering multiple sick days for nurses, working 12-hour shifts, navigating pandemic safety protocol and personal protective equipment (PPE) on top of family expectations became overwhelming.
Loulas works in the unit that houses non-ICU COVID-19 patients. She said the feeling of burnout was not caused by the number of patients she cared for, but additional stress related to COVID-19.
She said the pandemic has illustrated the need for more health-care professionals in the field.
"If we had more nurses on the floor, then I would be able to speak with my patient who needs a little bit more time, who doesn't have the support of a care person right beside them at the bed."
A recent study by the University of Windsor looked at the effect the pandemic had on the well-being of local nurses. After approximately one year, many of the 36 registered nurses said they were ready to retire or had left the profession due to fatigue and frustration.
Janice Kaffer, president and CEO of Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) has noticed this trend within her nursing staff.
"We're pretty concerned about the mental well-being of people," Kaffer said, adding there's "not a lot of relief" for those on the front lines.
Kaffer said staffing levels have been lean and it has been a challenge to fill vacant nursing positions at HDGH.
Loulas believes part of the reason hospitals face shortages and vacancy issues are due to nervousness and health concerns.
"Whatever you do, you could possibly bring it home to your family," Loulas said.
She admits to feeling nervous about working in an environment with COVID-19, but still wants to do the job and help the shortage any way she can.
"You don't want to let your team down," she said.
While Loulas has minimized her workload for her own health and the well-being of her family, taking on extra shifts during COVID-19 has taught her to be more empathetic toward patients and their families.
"I want them to know I do care for them, I do want to be there for them. It's just sometime the loads are a little bit heavy. but I want to care for people the way I would want my loved ones to be cared for."
With files by Chris Ensing