Covid-19 related trauma

Three and a half years ago, my husband, daughter and I embarked on a new lifestyle. My husband accepted a travel nurse job in Dillingham, Alaska, and the three of us flew there in October 2016. After six months in Dillingham the next job was 11 months in Sitka, Alaska. Then three months in Rapid City, S.D. When Covid-19 hit we were in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Travel nursing did come with some hard parts. We moved often, leaving friends behind. We had to find short-term housing, which could be expensive and difficult. The contracts were always for three months at a time, with the possibility but not guarantee, of getting extended up to a year. So every two months it was always the question, are we staying or going?

But mostly it was a very fun adventure! I called it travel schooling. Our daughter Avery had so many awesome experiences we never could have had if she had grown up in North Dakota, the state she was born in.

We loved Alaska, especially Sitka. We made such wonderful memories and lifelong friends in Sitka. The opportunity to live on an island, blocks from the ocean, with a mountain in our backyard, was amazing! We saw whales, sea lions and banana slugs in the wild. We touched sea stars and watched crabs scuttle away when the tide was low.

Another of our favorite places was Charlottesville. It was an especially mild winter the year we were there, only snowing twice and once in April, after we left. Both times the snow did not last long. We made such good friends in the Hike it Baby group we joined there. It’s a beautiful area with so much to see and do nearby. We spent several days exploring Washington, D.C.

When the coronavirus thing first started to be an issue, I thought if I could buy two weeks worth of groceries and not leave the house, we could ride it out. As a nurse, obviously my husband had to continue working and would likely be exposed, but I felt it was important that I do everything I could to keep us from getting sick and getting him, and then his vulnerable patients, sick.

But as time went on it became clear it wasn’t a short term problem. And then it was time for us to look for our next contract, because the hospital Chad was working at limited travel nurses to three, three month contracts and that time was coming to a close. Even though I had a lot of anxiety about traveling when there were stay at home orders in a lot of states, we had no other choice but to find the next job, pack up, clean and travel across six states to Rapid City, where Chad had signed a contract to work next.

We made the 1,700 mile trip across six states in three days. Avery and I wore masks anytime we went into gas stations or rest areas to go to the bathroom, we washed our hands and used hand sanitizer and we ate food we had packed in our vehicle. We stayed two nights in hotels, which we wiped down with disinfectant wipes before we brought our daughter inside. We did the best we could.

We arrived in South Dakota Friday, April 17. We’d signed a lease for three months on a lovely condo across the street from a sports field with a park behind that. We started unpacking and getting comfortable. I stocked up on a large amount of groceries so we wouldn’t have to go back out into a store for a long time. On Monday, April 20, Chad’s recruiter called and told him his contract was canceled. All the travel nurses contracts had been canceled, in fact, and the same thing happened at a lot of hospitals to travel nurses. Even some permanent staff was furloughed. In a time of coronavirus, with elective surgeries canceled and people avoiding hospitals as much as possible, there weren’t enough patients to keep nurses working.

We packed back up again and drove another nine hours to my husband’s parents’ house. We are lucky to have two sets of parents glad to take us in if we need a place to stay. We’ve been here at my in laws’ house eight days and we are both working as hard as we can to figure out what to do next and find work. I’m so very grateful they are so willing to help us by letting us live here!

Still, it’s been traumatic. Actual trauma. The coronavirus situation was already scary to me, add having to move on top of it and then the loss of my husband’s contract, meaning we had no place to live and no income, and it has been really, really hard. Plus finding him work in the current situation has been difficult. Normally nurses are highly in demand but right now many nurses are out of work so it’s been hard to find him a spot, travel nursing or permanent staff.

Another layer is that we’ve realized that, with everything going on, travel nursing just isn’t for us anymore. So one minute we’re living our adventuresome life, happy to experience so many cool places and looking forward to going other, new places, and the next minute we turn around and realize that’s all over. If my husband gets another travel nursing spot our daughter and I won’t be able to go with him because we won’t be able to get housing, not knowing if the contract will be canceled just like it was in Rapid City. And we just don’t want to be separated. I would rather be poor and live together than live apart. Because if he stops travel nursing, his income will be cut severely. So we have the grief of the loss of a lifestyle we enjoyed to deal with too.

On top of all the other changes I will have to transition from being a SAHM that had the luxury of focusing just on our daughter and things like cooking and cleaning to a SAHM who has to find work-at-home jobs so I can bring in money to help support us. The past week my husband and I both had to work very hard at updating our resumes and apply for jobs. It was difficult to do while also trying to take care of our daughter, deal with the trauma we were feeling and also live with family but we did the best we could.

I keep reminding myself of two things. No. 1, there are many people across the world who are dealing with very difficult circumstances right now. Though we are jobless and homeless right now, we are honestly very lucky. We aren’t sick, we have family to live with and we are together. Secondly, we aren’t doing anything wrong. This is happening because of coronavirus, not because we made any mistakes. All we can do is our best to put one foot in front of the other and find ways to get jobs and settle into a new life.