This ICU Nurse's "How It's Going" Meme Shows the Reality of COVID-19

Two photos posted by an ICU nurse show just how intense the workload is for healthcare workers during the pandemic.

Mustafa Gatollari - Author

Dec. 1 2020, Published 12:15 p.m. ET

icu nurse how its going cover
Source: Twitter

It's no secret that healthcare workers are being run ragged in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reports of employees being overworked and dealing with heightened psychological duress are unfortunately all too common. With new restrictions and safety protocols constantly being implemented, longer hours, and throngs of patients either being tested or treated for the coronavirus, it's been an exceptionally rough year for those in the healthcare field.

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And while there's no shortage of social media posts and reports that reinforce these statistics, it's 28-year-old Kathryn's "how it started, how it's going meme" that's really driving the point home for a lot of people.

The meme shows her initial staff photo juxtaposed with a selfie she took after working a shift during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She followed up the meme with a tweet thread discussing the love and dedication she has for her job. She discussed the particulars of her career trajectory and day-to-day workflow with BuzzFeed, saying "Some shifts are eerily slow and quiet, while others are 12-plus hours of all-out chaos."

Kathryn graduated from nursing school in May, right around the height of the pandemic.

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In her thread, she writes, "I love being a nurse. Didn't exactly expect to be a new nurse in the middle of a highly politicized pandemic but life comes at you fast and even in a pandemic, there's nothing else I want to do. Caring for the sickest of the sick is an honor and I treasure my patients."

For Kathryn, one of the hardest parts of her job is the brutal redundancy of some COVID-19 cases.

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"It is devastating to watch people die when those deaths were avoidable and it's even more devastating when you watch them die the same way, time after time after time. It's devastating that basic common sense and decency has been politicized. [COVID] is a brutal disease and I wouldn't wish the worst of it on my worst enemy. Please understand that you aren't just protecting yourself, you are protecting the people around you."

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As for what inspired her to take the selfie, she told the outlet that she wanted to show folks what wearing a mask and face shield for an entire shift while caring for patients all day did to her, "...I was struck by how exhausted I looked. I was drenched in sweat, my hair sticking straight up from the mask and face shield. The grooves left by the PPE on my face were deep and red, and I remember thinking that the reality of being a nurse was nothing like the ideas people seem to have of nurses in their heads, of cleanly pressed scrubs or white uniforms."

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She doubled down on stating she wanted to share the effect the pandemic's had on humanity in an attempt to cut down on the politicizing of the virus, "I just wanted people to see what it's really like to take care of the patients that are at the heart of the pandemic that has somehow become a political flashpoint."

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It didn't take long for other healthcare workers to share their own "how it started, how it's going memes", with many other people praising the nurse for being so candid about the effects of working such long hours in stringent conditions, no matter how unflattering the uploaded end result was.

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Kathryn went on to say that she's been overwhelmed by the response to her post and that she was "touched to the bottom of [her] heart by all those who have expressed their thanks and gratitude for healthcare workers."

She added that the significance of other healthcare workers sharing their own personal stories shows just how many individuals the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted.

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She added, "...already we are starting to recognize in each other a certain look you get after long enough in the unit. Something about the eyes. We've seen things that we can never forget."

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The best way to prevent contracting or spreading coronavirus is with thorough hand washing, social distancing, and wearing a mask or cloth facial covering. If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, which include persistent cough (usually dry), fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue, please call your doctor before going to get tested. For comprehensive resources and updates, visit the CDC website. If you are experiencing anxiety about the virus, seek out mental health support from your provider or visit

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