How a frontline nurse manages uncertainty and finds the time and space to write
Back in April, feeling inspired by the work of first responders, medical professionals, and the scientific community around the globe, we wondered what we could do to support these professionals in the fight against the pandemic.
In addition to the stresses of the pandemic, we are living in an unprecedented time of information overload, which is affecting our ability to work and our general wellbeing.
For this reason, we decided to provide grants of Freedom subscriptions to scientific researchers and frontline medical personnel dealing with the pandemic. Whether they needed Freedom to do focused work, or just wanted to decompress by turning off the noise, we were happy to be able to help in some small way.
More than 6 months have passed since then, and as we live through these very challenging times, we are extremely grateful for all the work that is being done every day by these frontline workers. As a mark of our gratitude, we wanted to share the stories from some members of the Freedom community, to learn how they are managing to stay healthy, productive, and positive at this time.
Stephanie Cobb is a nurse who has been caring for COVID-19 patients and leading the fight against the pandemic since March this year. She took the time to share her experiences with us, and explain how Freedom helps her to disconnect mentally and indulge her passion for writing.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
I’ve been a Registered Nurse for 22 years and work in the recovery room at a small off-site hospital affiliated with a major medical center … usually.
Since March, I’ve floated to ER, 2 medical-surgical units, worked 2.5 months on the hospital’s COVID hotline and helped open a new non-COVID unit to ensure we have COVID beds available at the main campus. As a Harry Potter and BBC Sherlock fan, I write fan fiction for both fandoms, which is where Freedom comes in!
What have been some of the biggest changes to your daily life this year?
My work schedule, hands down. What had been a clockwork template for two years changed to utter chaos literally overnight. Blank weeks, changes after the final posting, calls while I’m driving in telling me to go back home… walking into my unit not knowing where I’d be assigned that day. And a memorable week where the first thing I did after silencing my alarm was to check my phone to see if my shift had been canceled that morning!
Freedom gives me the ability to shut off distractions, set aside the serious issues facing us as individuals, families, and citizens, and immerse myself in another world.
How does Freedom fit into your daily work routine or home life?
Well, work not at all, obviously! But at home, Freedom gives me the ability to shut off distractions, set aside the serious issues facing us as individuals, families, and citizens, and immerse myself in another world. Using Freedom helps me exercise the discipline to write without external deadlines or oversight.
Has Freedom helped you to build any new habits or change your behavior in any way?
I really enjoy the blog posts. Freedom introduced me to the Pomodoro Technique, which I use not only for writing but for household management as well. I just read Rosalie Macmillan’s article on Pomodoro varieties today and bookmarked it for reference! Featured authors on time management and productivity led to additional reading which resulted in me starting a bullet journal last fall, which has been both immensely helpful and enjoyable as another creative outlet.
Has your focus and productivity been affected by the current situation?
Definitely. Nursing is far from easy, but I had never been scared to go to work; the PPE shortage in the early months was terrifying. Information changed so rapidly–literally every few hours–that collegial co-workers argued regularly. You can’t be productive when you don’t know the correct thing to do. You can’t focus when auto-pilot tasks suddenly become different and irregular.
Immersing myself in another world through creative writing is a disconnect as efficient as pulling a plug.
How do you disconnect from the challenges of your job in order to maintain some sense of work-life balance?
It helps to be able to physically leave! Even working remotely for the COVID-19 hotline, I left my home office at the end of my shift and shut the door. That’s another boundary for most nurses: time, the end of a shift.
The challenge is disconnecting mentally. I have a visualization exercise I’ve practiced since my nursing school days, and immersing myself in another world through creative writing is a disconnect as efficient as pulling a plug.
In what ways do you look after your physical and mental wellbeing to cope at this time?
Sleep. A standing phone date with my best friend. Pruning social media. I took advantage of Ten Percent Happier’s free subscription for health care workers and started meditation. I worked to reduce my uncertainty through online nursing education. I managed the corresponding information overload by prioritizing my hospital’s updates, local case data, and information directly relevant to my then-current nursing practice.
Has anything in your life changed for the better due to the pandemic restrictions? Have you learned to appreciate different things, for example?
I was all set to be doom and gloom (single, living alone, family and friends out of state, etc. ) and then I remembered Cul-de-Sac Cocktails! Almost all the houses at my end of the street are owned by single women (whether widowed, divorced, or unmarried). We’ve taken to gathering on my neighbor’s porch – outside, physically distanced – for a “bring your own drink” social hour (or two) about once a month. During the lockdown, it was the only human contact for most of us.
Ask for help. Advocate for yourself. Love one another.
If you could re-do 2020, what advice would you give to yourself knowing what you know now?
Breathe. Prepare for a marathon, not a sprint. Take a clue from your ER admission and ask for help sooner. Advocate for yourself like you would for a patient. Love one another.
Stephanie Cobb is a full-time nurse, part-time writer, and life-long cat lover. Read her Harry Potter and Sherlock fic on fanfiction.net or Archive of Our Own, and follow her at Ktoo Writes … and other musings, where she blogs about fan fiction, creative writing, travel, and yes, cats. Don’t worry, she promises to “keep the disgusting nursing posts to a minimum.”