Pandemic Patterns: Nurse’s Poem Vividly Describes Emotions of the Past Year

By | 2022-05-11T10:09:38-04:00 July 28th, 2021|21 Comments

Janette Sheldrick, BSN, RN, grew up listening to inspiring stories of her great grandmother’s work as a delivery nurse but didn’t immediately gravitate toward nursing. Instead, she majored in Fine Arts before changing direction.

Janette Sheldrick, RN

“I decided to make the transition into nursing when I came to the self-realization of my worth and determination to help others,” she said.

Sheldrick has been a nurse for three years. She credits her family for supporting her on her journey through nursing school.

“My mom and dad sacrificed what feels like everything in order to help me get through nursing school,” she said. “My family and loved ones are truly my sole motivators.”

Sheldrick says reading and writing are tools she uses to decompress after long workdays. “I journal almost every day as a personal exercise to cope with daily stressors,” she said. “Writing is medicine for the soul, and I find poetry a powerful way to portray grand stories in just a few short lines.”

Here is Sheldrick’s poetry debut, “Pandemic Patterns”.

Pandemic Patterns

March 2020 and it begins. Questions and confusion. You’re thinking it’s all an illusion.

The city has a dark cloud over it filled with scare, but the empty streets are still so rare.

Government telling you to mask up, but the world is thinking it’s just a “cover-up.”

My beautiful, magnificent city this disease — not so itty bitty — has made you cease.

I wake up after a short day’s worth of sleep. Dark circles, makeup and weep.

Exhaustion floods in. Hair up, badge on, and I think to myself “the vacant streets feel like a sin.”

Now barren sidewalks, but the crammed streets of loud cheering screams and talks.

As a young woman loudly bangs a pot with gratitude, I see a man not too far off angry with attitude.

We seem divided, when we really need to be confiding in each other to help one another.

Overwhelmed I feel, but to be disease free is a steal. I miss my family, but I’m needed can’t you all see?

Hospital doors, single file, sanitize and mask. So I ask, “How many today? Can we even say?”

200, 500, 700 – the numbers keep rising, yet I feel my energy dying.

I sit down and ask my colleague, “All COVID?” She says, “Yes, I wish it was undid and now visitors we forbid.”

My patient, you’re dying, can’t breathe and sick. So why does my own heart ache like it’s ischemic?

Gown, gloves and respirator. You can’t see me, but I can feel your fear to my core.

You’re lying prone, your medical future still unknown.

100, 90, 80. Your oxygen is dropping, your respirations growing. Labored breathing there’s no unseeing.

We cannot wait. We need to intubate.

Pounding, pounding, pounding. Alarms sounding.

I feel my hands thrust your sternum. My other patients thinking I’m busy is a burden.

Still no pulse. Back on your chest like an impulse.

Pounding, pounding, pounding. Alarms sounding.

1… 2… 3… CLEAR. I don’t want you to disappear.

Shock administered. I question time of death being muttered.

We can’t give up. Back on the chest we resume. Our adrenaline being consumed.

Pounding, pounding, pounding. Alarms sounding.

Dripping Amio, through the urgent IO.

Pushing Epi. Still pulseless but tachy.

Beep, beep, beep. A heart rhythm. Every code feels like an algorithm.

Blood, sweat, tears. It feels like it’s been years.

You’re still hypoxic, but your beautiful soul is atoxic.

They take you away to the ICU. You’re lucky if you get a day or two.

And finally that is my cue. For another patient is ringing and I must go or else HCAHPS will be “dinging.”

I get a minute and scrub my hands. Cracked and dry. I just want to cry.

Suck it up. 10 more hours to go. Put on a show. Fake that smile even though the patient says they’ve been waiting awhile.

8 a.m. I can’t wait to sleep in REM.

I wake up after a day’s worth of sleep.

Dark circles, makeup, weep.


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About the Author:

Janette Sheldrick, BSN, RN
Janette Sheldrick, BSN, RN, is a nurse at New York Presbyterian, Weill Cornell in Manhattan.


  1. Avatar
    Julie H July 28, 2021 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Such a beautifully written poem. I’m sure so many people working throughout the pandemic, including myself, can relate and feel the emotions just from reading it.

  2. Avatar
    Pamela DR August 1, 2021 at 10:29 am - Reply

    I can feel the emotion in this beautiful poem, and I can relate.

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    Lorrie Phariss August 1, 2021 at 11:30 am - Reply

    Very thoughtful and true!

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    Marilyn Adkins August 1, 2021 at 11:33 am - Reply

    I am a retired RN and understand. The worst part is my sister passed in this way, so I see this as her story and it makes me sad. We need everyone to be vaccinated and take precautions.

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    Kay Fearon August 1, 2021 at 12:03 pm - Reply

    Had to stop reading at this line: Government telling you to mask up, but the world is thinking it’s just a “cover-up.” Sorry no, in March 2020 many panicked people wanted masks and were lied to by the government that they shouldn’t mask up. The reasons why they lied are irrelevant to the fact that they LIED, and that lie, right there, started a domino effect of distrust that exacerbated the pandemic in this country. Facts matter, even in a poem based on history.

    • Avatar
      Lauren August 21, 2021 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      Trump. Donald Trump lied. And he proceeded to threaten and discredit the most necessary and critical experts in the field as they desperately tried to inform the public. The hard line is still drawn. Trump continues to lie, and only the most gullible of the population listen to his drivel over science, facts, and the desperate pleas of doctors and nurses.

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    Pauline Schuman August 1, 2021 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    I spent 48 years as an RN, retired December 2019, unknown to me what lied ahead in 2020. I cried for my medical family. I understood the pain, heartache, and exhaustion they were facing. I warned my family early in 2020 my fears of this new virus that was being reported.

    I still ache for all of you as the world has made our public health a political football. I have lost many friends along the way because I can’t wrap my head around their misguided belief. You are wonderful, your poem hits home, and through your words I feel your continued pain.

  7. Avatar
    Joanne Whiteside, RN August 1, 2021 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    This is a beautiful piece. I had chills reading it. I, too, was a front-line nurse during this pandemic. Not nearly as deep as you. I want to copy and paste your poem and send to everyone I know.
    Please keep up your important work, and please keep writing. Your talent shows. Please share when you choose.

    Joanne Whiteside, RN

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    Kathleen Hutter RN August 1, 2021 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Jannette This was a beautiful poem which brought me to tears. You were able to describe everything which occurred over the past year!! Your poem should be published. I can truly relate due to my long nights in the ICU at Banner Casa Grande Hospital in Arizona, during COVID. I have been a RN for 30 years and have never experienced anything to this capacity. My closest experience was HIV/AIDS.Thank you for sharing.

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    Shamiah C August 1, 2021 at 5:30 pm - Reply


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    Geraldene Sullivan August 1, 2021 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    Well done!! Hang in there! You can do this ❤️

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    Cecilia G. August 2, 2021 at 12:43 am - Reply

    The commitment we have to keep our patients well cared for despite our own pains is fully expressed in this poem. Thank you for speaking for all of us who are too numb, too tired, and too hurt — thus speechless. But despite all these, we will keep going.

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    Beverly B August 2, 2021 at 7:23 am - Reply

    Hello Janette,
    Beautiful!! During this pandemic, thank you for the expressions soo illustrative of professional nurses as we all face each day in the care of ourselves, patients and their loved ones..

  13. Avatar
    Kaye France August 3, 2021 at 1:12 am - Reply

    Hello, Janette

    Beautiful poem. I am a retired CRNA in AZ and can imagine my job to the 100th power with the Covid pandemic. I applaud your diligence, empathy and passion for the patients. Thank you for your dedication and stamina. Be safe and so glad you chose the Nursing profession..

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    Kim August 3, 2021 at 10:01 am - Reply

    So well written and to the point …
    I’m a front line worker as well….
    Our hospital in South Florida went from a 15 bed unit of COVID patients to 215 in 3 days …
    Delta , unvaccinated patients etc….
    A crying shame indeed

  15. Avatar
    Nadege August 11, 2021 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    I felt every line on that poem. Thank you for putting into words what bedside nurses experience every single day…

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    Lynda M August 12, 2021 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    Your writting is exquisite Janette. I’m a retired RN, and there is a part of me that feels guilty about not being at the bedside. There is another part of me that is grateful that i had retired the year before the pandemic.

    Nurses are my heroes and I loved my 40 years of service to patients, their families, fellow nurses and administrators.

    I am preparing to bring up my website as a certified professional performance coach for frontline nurses experiencing burnout. I can only imagine how challenging bedside nursing must be during these times. Thank you for sharing.
    Lynda M

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    Mary Lou August 15, 2021 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    The rhythm of your poem is excellent. I can feel the adrenaline during the “code” and the absolute exhaustion and overwhelmingness of the never ending pattern — “dark circles, makeup, weep, REPEAT”!! Absolutely moving poem. WELL DONE, Janette. I have shared your poem with co-workers.

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    Bonnie Lou Duitsman August 16, 2021 at 2:57 am - Reply

    I am also an RN of the past 7 years. I got sick, myself, and have struggled with the guilt of not being bedside for the past year. I got sick in February 2020, just as whispers of covid were coming out. I’m still disabled at this point. No one can tell me what’s wrong with me, they just know it’s something neurological. I had to stop doing the job I love when I realized that my lapses in memory and stiff gait were putting my patients at risk.

    I can’t drive and have to nap after a shower d/t exhaustion. I am eaten up by the guilt of not being with my coworkers this past December when our 50 bed hospital (that’s 20 med/surg beds, 4 ICU beds, 6 L&D, 12 ED and 8 in PACU) had 65 patients, 90% of them positive for Covid-19. There were patients in hallways, on O2 from canisters. Every single vent in the hospital was in use (we have a grand total of 6 in the whole place). I don’t know if I’ll get to be a nurse again in the future, but this beautifully written poem made me feel like I was there with my brothers and sisters, if only for a moment. Thank you.

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    Cynthia F Chancellor RN October 20, 2021 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    Very heartfelt I can feel the emotions as I read each line. I too a nurse have felt the same as you almost like we share one mind. Nursing is the most selfless profession there is we always put everyone else’s needs ,wants and desires before our own. We are truly a special caliber and breed. We keep going even when we are exhausted. We wear many hats friend , coach , counselor mediator anything that our patients need us to be. To be a nurse comes from within. You learn a lot from books however the core of nursing comes from the passion you possess to want to make a difference in someone’s life even if it is only one person.

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    Paula March 21, 2022 at 11:45 pm - Reply

    Hi Janette,

    I was searching the net to find a beautiful poem about the incredible work of nurses during the Covid pandemic, and found your beautiful poem.

    I wanted to ask for your permission to include your poem in a short choreography based on the kindness and incredible work of nurses during the pandemic.

    I would like to included it in the work but only with permission and if you feel comfortable with this suggestion. Of course your name would be acknowledge. If you could please confirm it would be appreciated.

    Thanks for all that you and all nurses around the world have done and continue to do. The world is grateful.

    BTW…The name of the dance work is title “In the care of Angels” , because you all are as kind as angels.

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