Guilt: I feel it right now. Do you?

By Dr. Gretchen Wheelock |

My first semester of college, I was struggling to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. My college advisor kept telling me that I really needed to make a choice for the following semester so that we could set a plan of study in order to graduate in four years. All the career development quizzes and surveys suggested that I wanted to help people, in person, day after day. My mom, who was a financial controller at our hometown hospital, suggested that I become a nurse. 

My time as a bedside nurse came to end 10 years ago when I became a nurse educator. Experiencing this pandemic, I cannot help but think of all the nurses that I have personally worked alongside and those that I have taught over the years. I feel guilty that I am not there alongside them because I know the personal sacrifices each one of these nurses is making in order to serve our communities. The stress on their families, their own personal health, and their mental well-being is heartbreaking. So many of us take for granted the luxuries of working from home and the safety this brings. We forget how easy it is to hug our children or spouses without worrying that we are unknowingly bringing home the disease. 

The commitment we take as nurses is one that is far greater than society can comprehend. It’s an oath of commitment, dedication, resilience, and faith.

I know my colleagues and former students are doing incredible work. I know that they are working from a space of selfless love, as I once did on the frontlines. I know that they are putting their hearts and souls into everyday patient care. Just as my own parents were proud of me when I became a nurse, I feel the same pride in knowing that there are hundreds of students carrying a piece of my teachings while fighting this pandemic. 

As I sit in the safety of my own home, continuing to teach the future of nursing online, I am reminded that while I may not be on the front lines any longer that I am still doing my part. I am teaching from the heart of experience. I am instilling confidence and faith into our future while still encouraging and uplifting the efforts of our alumni nurses. I am teaching a new set of nurses and nurse practitioners to join the fight. 

We are all in this together. Our paths intertwine as we weave in and through the matrix of this profession. We all have a job to make a difference. 

To my past, present, and future nursing colleagues, I know the good work that you are doing. 

To my students, you are the pride of my profession. Just as this pandemic has spread amongst our communities so too has your knowledge, dedication, and healing touch. Hold true to your roots.

As you are led into the unknown, know that there is an army of protectors holding up shields for you as you enter a new day. May you be blessed and stay safe. You have always been, and will always be, my healthcare heroes. 


Gretchen Wheelock, DNP, APRN-C, is the Graduate Nursing Program Director and an Associate Professor of Nursing at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa, USA. She is a member of Sigma’s Theta Gamma at-Large Chapter at Briar Cliff University.

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