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nurses and covid


The change is undeniable.

The saying goes “not all heroes wear capes.” And indeed, our real world heroes aren’t saving lives while flying around in spandex. They’re doing it in a pair of scrubs and a medical mask.

Nurses typically work 12 hour shifts, three days a week—many even opt to do all three shifts back-to-back.

That means for 12 hours they’re drawing blood, collecting samples, taking vitals, performing exams, monitoring recovery, administering medications, not to mention the emotional toll of helping patients and families through their own stresses. It’s not for the faint of heart.

In a recent TikTok trend, nurses show what they look like before and after one of these 12-hour work shifts, and it's undeniable the kind of toll one of these work days takes. Spoiler: it takes a lot.

No matter who is being recorded, the pattern remains the same: nurse comes in smiling and full of energy before the shift, then comes out completely exhausted. If that’s not evident by the half-closed eyes, slumping shoulders and messy ponytails, their tired, raspy voices are a dead giveaway.

@briannadestiny1108 Nursing take on this trend 😅 #nurse #nursesoftiktok #nurselife #nurses #nursehumor #ernurse #ernurselife #ernurses #ernursesbelike #ernursesbelike #nurseslife #nurseproblems #nursestiktok #thisismechallenge #thisismebeforeandafter😎 #emergencyroom ♬ original sound - Bri Lara

No amount of coffee (or “Celsius and Adderall,” as one joked) can really prevent the fatigue to come, especially for those who work a night shift. Though there were a special few who magically seemed unbothered start to finish. As one nurse noted, this could be because they were on on shift “1 of 3.” But after shift 3 of 3, they’d probably be just as listless as their peers.

Many people were left baffled at how these nurses managed to endure such long and greulling hours. One person commented, "How do nurses/ doctors do it??? I get so tired after working 8 hours at my office job."

@jessicaavelasco Before and after our shift. #nursesoftiktok #nurselife #nursetok #nurse #enfermeria #enfermera #nursehumor ♬ original sound - Jessica Velasco

Another viewer noted "Unless you have worked 12 hours hospital RN shifts you can’t fully understand it. It changes you. Especially if your 12s are overnight."

These long shifts have only gotten tougher since the COVID-19 pandemic, when around 100,000 registered nurses in the U.S. left the workplace due to stress, per the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

And the industry continues to suffer a staffing crisis due to “cost-cutting decisions” and “an aging population and workforce,” according to The American Nurses Association, or ANA.

@itsjacquelinewells Before & after a 12 hr shift #nursesoftiktok #nursetok #ernursing #nightshiftnurse #nightshift #nursing #erlife #12hourshift #nursehumor ♬ original sound - Jacqueline Roa

Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, president of the ANA, said that “meaningful and lasting solutions,” like eliminating mandatory overtime and specific mental health and wellness resources, would be needed to combat any staffing shortages.

Ostensibly, nurses (like other service providers) endure these arduous shifts out of a drive to help others. But clearly, our heroes need—and deserve—help as well.