This Time, I Choose Me

Registered Nurse — one of the professions receiving much publicity today. Honoring them from shining beams of light, to fundraising programs, to apps for fallen heroes, to military jet flyover demonstrations, to “Dear Hero” letters, and even free food and priority lanes. There are also appalling stories of discrimination and stigmatisation, derogatory remarks, and heinous crimes committed against. We also read about nurses who walked and pedalled to work and their exhausted cries for the public to stay at home.

I was once a bedside nurse, caring for critically ill newborns and pediatric chemo patients. It is true that no amount of money can compare to the sense of fulfillment one feels at the bedside. When the only thing between death and your patient is YOU. There is no moment that I didn’t felt proud to be a nurse than those three precious years. There is no greater joy than to see them get discharged in good health.

Of course, much like any story plot, there are also good and bad days — and I was overwhelmed by the bad days so I left. I am currently working as a Team Lead in a corporate setting using my international nursing license. The pay and work-life balance are good.

At the start of the Covid season as I watch my friends and colleagues battle a seemingly losing war, I am being taken care of by my company — staying in a hotel, very well compensated and very well fed. As my company began experiencing some setbacks, a couple of us were placed on “bench”. I am safe at home and still receiving financial assistance, while bedside nurses are shouting pleas for government support, PPEs, hazard pay, and modest working conditions. The sick are coming in by flocks and the hospital system is obviously congested. Every day the news and social media headlines are all the same, if not worse.

That is when it hit me. The survivor’s guilt. I am a nurse. I should be out in the battlefield swaying my weapon against the invisible enemy. But instead, here I am. Safe at home. Watching countless Netflix. Perfecting my skincare routine. Doing several workouts. Drawing hundreds of lines. Scrolling through a number of feeds. Reacting to thousands of posts.

As much as I want to go back to the frontlines, there is this push and pull inside of me as I think about my personal safety and that of my family. I emailed DOH once with the intent to apply as one of their Covid contractual nurses, but I never received a feedback so I never followed through. Maybe it was just a pretentious act to do something patriotic. A way to pacify my guilt that at the very least, I tried.

“Nurse ka pa naman.”

There is no need to rub salt in the wound.

I laud you for fighting the good fight. I laud you for your unselfishness and sacrifice. I laud you for answering the call of duty.

But please, do not shame me for wanting to be safe. Do not shame me for putting myself first. Do not shame me for giving up. Do not shame me for resigning.

I am not a coward. I just chose me.