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Vaccinated healthcare workers find hope after months of trauma from frontlines of COVID-19 battle

Although the pandemic is still as overwhelming as ever, many healthcare workers revealed that they now face it with an elation and a confidence that they can now offer better care.

Vaccinated healthcare workers find hope after months of trauma from frontlines of COVID-19 battle
Cover Image Source: Getty Images/ Public health nurse Kathy Luu administers a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to a staff member at the Ararat Nursing Facility in Los Angeles on January 7 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mario Tama)

When Linda Green received a coronavirus vaccine, physically, it didn't feel different from any other vaccination. Aside from a mild upper arm soreness following the shot, it had no other physical side effects. The emotional effects of the vaccine, however, were unlike anything she'd ever experienced before. For the 73-year-old who works as a nurse at a long-term care facility in western Maryland, the vaccine represented something that healthcare workers around the world have seen very little of in the past year: hope. Even thinking of the vaccine, Green said two weeks after receiving the Moderna shot, makes her "cry with relief" as she's now able to picture a brighter future for herself and those she cares for.

 



 

 

"Now, when I go in and I'm putting on my N95, I think, 'This may only be for a few more weeks,'" Green told The Washington Post. "We won't have to wear face shields, and ah, it will be so nice," she added, though she still expects to continue wearing a surgical mask around residents, who have also been vaccinated. Although for some, the hope inspired by the historically quick development of COVID-19 vaccines has given way to the distressing reality of a slow rollout. For healthcare workers who have been tirelessly battling this pandemic from the frontlines, nothing can diminish their feeling of relief.

 



 

 

Many health-care workers who got vaccinated after toiling for nearly a year under exhausting, dangerous, and often terrifying conditions admitted to now experiencing a surprising new sense of levity and energy as they go about work. Although the pandemic is still as overwhelming as ever — if not more — these healthcare workers revealed that they now face the crisis with elation and confidence that they can now offer better care. 

 



 

 

"Sometimes, I feel like I walk around with a biohazard sign on me," said Danielle Gonzalez, 39, an intensive care unit nurse in Eugene, Oregon. Since receiving her first dose of the vaccine, she said, she already feels like a small load has been lifted. She is now looking forward to receiving her second shot as she expects to "feel less contagious. It’ll be nice not to be patient zero." Gonzalez revealed her work became far more stressful than she ever imagined possible in 2020, what with the tiresome donning of personal protective equipment, the inability to respond as quickly as usual to patient alarms, and the constant anxiety that a newly admitted patient may test positive.

 



 

 

She described the vaccine as an unseen additional layer of PPE which has made real the possibility of being able to hug her parents — both of whom are over 65 — again soon. "Like they haven't seen me in forever," Gonzalez said. "And I cannot wait." Jane Tucker, a women's health nurse at a Colorado Springs hospital, shared similar sentiments about getting the shot. She's been able to stop wearing a stifling N95 mask for her entire shift and instead make do with a surgical mask for most of her shift. She only needs to strap on the more confining N95 when interacting with patients who test positive for the virus.

 



 

 

"I feel totally more optimistic, feeling more like it’s not this personal threat," Tucker said. "I feel like, if things became really bad again, I would be happy to volunteer to help. It kind of changes my mind-set about my personal risks. It empowers me to be able to give better care to my patients." Meanwhile, the vaccine has Green the courage to tentatively plan a family vacation with her 11-year-old granddaughter, whom she hasn't hugged since last year. "This is how we're coping – looking to the future," Green said. "We're trying to hope."

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