I first wrote about what it was like to work in Human Resources at a hospital during COVID last Spring. I never thought I would be writing about again six months later. I think we’ve all learned about ourselves and each other since then. Hearing daily stories of COVID-related deaths and how many bodies in the morgue has taken its toll. I had done my best to compartmentalize the horrific tragedies happening in the hospital, and to remain focused on my work. My ability to do this has eroded over time. I find myself becoming irritable, defensive, and short with people. If I am being completely honest, my ability to lead myself and my team has been compromised. Internally, I can feel the pressure building up inside of me, with each day feeling worse.
While I have not myself been diagnosed with COVID-19, it feels like the virus has defeated me. I cannot speak for everyone, but for me, I feel traumatized by the impact this virus has had on my life, and our lives as a society. Its known that Human Resources professionals are great at advising and counseling others, but we often do not take care of ourselves. I have been reminding our staff about the importance of self-care, especially now, but not doing anything for own self-care. I think sometimes we force ourselves to put up a good front. Showing any vulnerability could result in others seeing us as fragile or weak. Because of this perception, I force myself to keep going, but there have been recent chinks in the armor.
Working in a hospital during a time of COVID has been rough for all of us that do it. COVID doesn’t give us a break, it is always there. But, with the COVID vaccine now in progress, a new year, and a new President, my disposition has changed. There is reason to be hopeful and optimistic. A few weeks ago, when I came to the realization that I am letting COVID take over my life, and letting it dictate my own behavior, I knew I had to do something about it. It was time to practice my own self-care. Some people enjoy yoga, meditation, or mindfulness to unwind and relax. These things do not work for me, as I could never stay still to do them. What does work for me is exercise. I went back to running earlier this week, and it has been helping. I hadn’t been motivated to run since COVID hit us but getting back to it has really been cathartic.
I’m realizing now that everyone is working through the mental aspects of COVID in their own way. It reminds me of how we cope with grief. Some people are in denial, some people are angry, some people are depressed, and some people are accepting. And sometimes on any given day, we can experience all these emotions, thus the term emotional rollercoaster. So now imagine working in a hospital, with over 1500 employees, all of us emotional and grieving, all of us in different stages of grief. Understanding my own journey with the “COVID grief” has helped me be more empathetic of others that are going through the same. Having found my way through the rough patch, I’m more equipped to help others through it as well, and can speak first-hand to the important of self-care.
- Richard Finger has worked in Human Resources for over 20 years and has worked with small, private organizations, global corporations, and most currently, a healthcare organization. Richard has worked abroad a number of years in England as well as The Netherlands, where he acquired a great appreciation for cultural awareness. He currently holds three Human Resource Certifications (SHRM-SCP, SPHR, SPHRi), and is also teaching the SHRM-CP/SHRM-SCP preparation course at Howard County Community College. Richard earned his Bachelor Degree in Psychology at University of Central Florida, and Master Degree in Human Resources Management & Labor Relations at New York Institute of Technology. Richard has been writing for Baltimore Outloud for a number of years, contributing articles about his Human Resources experiences, as well as moonlighting as the author of Finger's Food restaurant reviews. Richard has enjoyed writing for the paper, and looks forward to many more opportunities to do so.