I used this phrase in a meeting today, only to be met with silence.
Zoom meetings are hard enough, and silence on the line has always bothered me. But this silence was different. For lack of a better metaphor, it was almost a questioning silence. No one knew what I meant, and no one was going to ask.
Often, I have used the term treading water when I write and speak about the state of nurses in the hospital. Many have left to do travel nursing, some have developed side gigs, and still others have gone into completely different professions. Not a pivot, but a direct repudiation of nursing and healthcare.
All of that is completely within their right. No arguments from me; if you don’t want to be here anymore nothing that the hospital says will dissuade you.
The term treading water is an interesting one. It implies an action, that of keeping oneself afloat. There is an antagonist, which is the water. In this instance it is keeping yourself from drowning. After all, to stop treading water means that ground has been found under your feet, or you died by drowning.
There are many things to drown in that are not water. There are circumstances, there is grief, and there is unrelenting pressure of a pandemic that no one cares to stop anymore. Nurses are drowning and there is no perception of a life preserver. It is no wonder that many are leaving the bedside.
One person asked today where did all the nurses go? And that is a good question. Another is do hospital systems let down the standards as to who is being hired? Is it better to hire someone who doesn’t quite fit the profile, just to get a body in the role? And how is that squared in their C-Suites? And where does it leave the nurses who do stay, who do hold the line?
In war, holding the line, means that soldiers do not back away from gains by retreating. And as the first line fall, the second line steps up and holds the line against further strikes.
And there are plenty of us who have been holding the line through the entire pandemic, knowing that there is no second line behind us to take over.
And we do it; not for the corporation, or the hospitals.
We hold the line for the patients who need us.
Because it is not just us treading water. We are holding up the patients as we do so.