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RN Carmen Johnson details the trauma nurses are facing during the pandemic

Nurse Carmen Johnson (Photo provided)

Carmen Johnson is an occupational health nurse in the automotive industry. In her role, she serves the health and wellness educational needs of several thousands of employees. She has over 29 years of nursing experience and has contributed to the community by organizing events like the Health and Wellness Fair for Detroit’s African World Festival for three years. Recently, Johnson was asked to coordinate a mobile COVID-19 testing site for residents of inner-city drug and alcohol treatment facilities. We spoke with Johnson about her career and the current state of nursing.

What are nurses seeing during this Coronavirus pandemic? When you’re overworked, what does that mean for your workload, your emotional load, and the level of support?

People presume that overworked just means physical overwork. And it is physical overwork in the respect that they’re required to do longer hours. It’s necessary that they work longer hours because there was a pre-existing nursing shortage throughout the country. This has made it worse so they’re required to work longer hours. They’re required to work more days, which means it’s physically demanding, but the level of carnage that they are experiencing is taking an emotional and psychological toll on those nurses as well.

What is happening in regards to the trauma nurses are dealing with? 

Historically, trauma nurses have been affected by working in trauma centers. Anyone who spends a long amount of time in a trauma center is going to suffer some form of PTSD. Now nurses who were not trauma nurses are experiencing a certain level of trauma that they’ve never experienced before or never imagined. And the trauma nurses have been taken beyond anything that they could have ever imagined as well. With nursing, were taught to help people and we want to save lives and that’s what a happy ending when we’re able to save lives. Unfortunately, now, we’re not able to save lives, and we’re losing a large number of people. We are required to not just care for them in their last hours of time, but care for their families as well who are not able to be with them.

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