The critical care nurse who wept in her car as she urged the public to stop pandemic panic buying may quit her job after an “exhausting year”, she revealed today.
Dawn Bilbrough, 52, said the past year had been “relentless, incredibly traumatic and emotionally and physically exhausting”.
Her video message went viral this time last year after she found supermarket shelves empty at the end of a gruelling 48-hour week on the Covid frontline.
In the clip, filmed in her car immediately after leaving the store, she told panic-buyers: “You just need to stop it.”
The nurse from York, who works in an intensive care unit in Leeds, West Yorks, admitted nothing in her 20-year nursing career could have prepared her for the last 12 months.
“There have been times when I’ve come home and had a good cry, because we have witnessed so much,” she said.
“We’re at the patient’s bedside 12 hours a day and they haven’t had that usual psychological support from their families.
“So we’ve been there… and got to know them as people, their likes and dislikes, their dreams.
“Then they’ve become really unwell and placed on ventilators and often they haven’t got through that.
“And that’s been difficult because personally I’ve felt a bond to my patients, and to witness them not progress as we would wish, that’s been really hard.”
She described the past year as “exhausting” both emotionally and physically.
The nurse said: “I think most people when they experience something stressful at work do reconsider their career.
“I think it’s a human response when you experience such high levels of stress to question your profession and the reasons that you’re in there, but we have all of us kept going, remained professional and continued to deliver the best of care that we’ve been able to.
“When you’re nursing, you’re always giving a little bit of yourself, and certainly this last year it’s been quite difficult to maintain my energy.
“And at the moment, it’s quite difficult at the moment. I’m struggling to be objective, so at the moment who knows, but long-term I don’t think I’ll be in nursing.”
In the viral video last March, she pleaded with people to stop panic buying so she could purchase food.
“There’s no fruit and veg, I had a little cry in there,” she said.
She described seeing coronavirus patients die as a “burden” she has to bear.
Earlier this month, NHS staff told the Mirror how they held the hands of the dying so that they knew ‘they were not alone’.
At the height of the pandemic, University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton-on-Tees had about 180 seriously ill patients.
Physios, domestics, and health care assistants – many among the lowest paid NHS workers – helped on Covid wards. Nurses read out moving messages from children and grandchildren, and helped them make their last calls to loved ones.
Dawn said that there were several patients dying every day on her ward during the pandemic. “I was once working in a pod where there were four patients with Covid,” she told Radio Four’s ‘The World This Weekend’.
“I left my shift at 20:00 in the evening. When I returned the next day all the patients had died, and were replaced with different people… although it’s hard bearing this burden, you don’t become desensitised – if you do, it’s time to give up the profession.”
The nurse also warned that the pandemic is still ongoing and said it is “shocking” that many patients on ventilators are aged in their 50s.
Amid calls for a better pay rise for nurses, she said the public had “huge respect” for nurses.
She expressed her hope for support for the long-term stress, anxiety and depression those in her profession are experiencing.
Last year the nurse was tearful as she told of empty shelves after a two-day shift and admitted she had a “little cry” in the supermarket after seeing the fruit and vegetable shelves totally bare.
She added: “I don’t know how I’m supposed to stay healthy. And those people… people are just stripping the shelves of basic foods. You just need to stop it.
“Because it’s people like me that are going to be looking after you when you’re at your lowest so just stop it. Please!”