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'That Nurse Hannah' on getting through

They look after us when we’re sick, but who’s looking after nurses?

It’s a question that prompted nurse Hannah Williams to start creating humourous social media videos in a bid to support other nurses working on the frontline in the pandemic.

“‘That Nurse Hannah’ was created to help make nurses feel less alone because after all, if you don’t laugh you cry,” says the 29 year-old.

Her following has grown to over 7,000 on Instagram and the account has become more than she ever could have imagined when she first started posting nursing memes in 2018.

“During the pandemic, I’ve connected with nurses and medical professionals around the world. The videos have never been more relevant than what they are now.”

Throughout the pandemic, our healthcare workers like Hannah have been labelled ‘heroes’.

Hannah says this label doesn’t sit right with her as it only increases the already mounting pressure on nurses.

“With that title comes a belief you’re superhuman and we’re not. We’re just humans having to face this at the coalface.”

Hannah has been working as a nurse for eight years, but the stress and pressure of the past two years in accident and urgent care has put her in a position she never thought possible.

“I’m so sad that I started hating it as much as I did,” she says.

As someone who was previously so passionate and upbeat about nursing and loved making her patients laugh, Hannah found herself with empathy fatigue and in a cycle of eat, shift work, repeat.

It was at that point she knew she had to change her lifestyle. In an effort to bring balance back into her life, she recently went part-time.

“I knew I needed to look after myself because if I’m not doing that, how can I make my patients feel better?”

She is now vowing to do more of the things that make her happy, like seeing friends and exercising, which she does through her Retro Gym Club – an 80s inspired aerobics class that she runs alongside her twin sister.

Hannah says the personal toll on nurses, who did not sign up for a global pandemic, has been widely felt.

“Never has there been a more important time in our profession to demonstrate resilience, but often we forget to look after ourselves and our mental health,” she says.

It’s hard to do when you’re forever looking after everyone else, says Hannah.

“You finish a shift at midnight, stay up to 2am, go to bed, wake up at 12. Then go to work again. So when do you take the chance to look after yourself? I certainly don’t have time for a skin regime.”

For Hannah, the unknown and changing nature of policies, which is a daily occurrence, has taken its toll emotionally and mentally, too, as has a stigma that all nurses somehow have COVID-19.

“I feel like friends and family think I’m contaminated. I used to be really proud to say I was a nurse but now I’m worried people will think I’m infectious.”

While her videos started out as a way to help her own mental health and that of others, Hannah hopes they can be an educational tool for all those outside of nursing too.

“I never ever make fun of patients. I just love highlighting what we do and how we feel as nurses, and it’s just about bringing in humour that is relatable – which might just help ease someone’s nerves before their own hospital visit.”

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