I’m still happy where I’m at and there’s nothing else I want to do. I feel like all of this is shaping me into a better nurse.Casey Rieschl, RN
FEELING BURNED OUT AT 23: WHAT PANDEMIC PRESSURE FEELS LIKE FOR A NURSE JUST STARTING OUT IN HER CAREER
Thursday, May 6 – National Nurses Day –Casey Rieschl, RN, BSN has wanted to be a nurse since she was 4-years-old. She remembers following the hospice nurses who cared for her ailing grandmother. So, in the fall of 2019 when she started her nursing career as a floor nurse at the Volunteers of America Maplewood Senior Living and Care Center in Maplewood, MN, she was activating her passion. But after only four months, the pandemic hit and Casey suddenly became one of the facility’s main COVID nurses.
“It really is shocking and crazy that just as I began my career I was dealing with a pandemic of historic proportions. I look back and already think – how did I do that,” 23 year-old Rieschl says.
The physical, mental and emotional stress of caring for COVID patients in a pandemic has led many nurses to quit the profession and the mental health impact of treating patients amid COVID has been well documented. Rieschl says she loves being a nurse but also admits the last year has tested her in ways she never could have imagined.
“There was never a time that I thought about quitting but there were times where I was so burned out and I would ask myself in the moment – how much longer can I do this? In the back of my head I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do. This has always been my passion. But it has been physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting. I’ve had to keep reminding myself that this isn’t forever. Pandemics all end and someone has to do this work until that happens,” Rieschl says.
Rieschl says as a young nurse she felt a calling to step up and do as much as she could to fill the incredible need. “I know when COVID cases first started a lot of nurses were quitting or refusing to work but I felt a real responsibility to care for others,” she says. “I’m young and healthy and I wanted to provide the best care to patients that I could but it’s been a lot. Early on I was wearing two N95s for 16 hours straight and it left bruises on my face. It was so hard to witness the social isolation of patients, seeing some not make it and watching families who were so worried,” Rieschl says.
But Casey says it’s also been incredible to celebrate with those patients who have beat the virus. “Those moments make it all worth it. The day we transferred our last patient and shut the COVID unit down was so incredible,” she adds.
Casey’s work has been rewarded. She was promoted and is now a Transitional Care Unit Nurse Manager at the VOA facility where she works. Her location hasn’t had a COVID patient in months but she says the work is still physically and mentally demanding because there are so many COVID guidelines and precautions to follow. Even so, she says her job is incredibly fulfilling and there’s nowhere else she wants to be.
“I’m still happy where I’m at and there’s nothing else I want to do,” Rieschl says. “I feel like all of this is shaping me into a better nurse. All the young nurses out there like me – we are all going to have lived and worked through the hardest thing you can imagine – a pandemic. Going through that and knowing I came out a stronger and better nurse is even more motivating for me to keep going and keep helping people, however I can.”
Casey Rieschl, RN, BSN, a nurse at the Volunteers of America Maplewood Senior Living and Care Center in Maplewood, MN is available for interviews via Zoom.
Jennifer Davis, Laura Evans Media. 703-946-9343.
- National Nurses Day (May 6) kicks off National Nurses Week, which runs through May 12. Nurses have been honored during this week since 1954 for the incredible work they do caring for people.
- Volunteers of America is a national nonprofit with hundreds of human service programs touching the lives of 1.5 million people in more than 46 states. It currently employs 495 nurses nationwide.