Worry Is What You Do

Worry is what you do…

(If you want to hear me read this 4-minute piece you can listen here: https://inside-stories.simplecast.com/episodes/inside-stories-covid-19-stories-2 I’m at about 2:38.)

My daughter called yesterday. “Mom, They’re running out of gloves and masks. She’s 23 and still in orientation as a brand new ICU nurse. We have that guy in a coma, he’s so young. Only thirty-five and he has a 50-50 chance of living. I’m worried, mom, and she cried into the phone. What if they run out of supplies? 

When I was a new nurse in 1986, I remember hearing about a disease affecting, we thought, only gay men, and it was killing them. I worked at the VA hospital, and I was pretty sure we wouldn’t see any homosexuals. I was 24 and wanted to be a good nurse more than anything, even though I knew absolutely nothing.

It was a typical day, we were getting a new admission, he was being put into our one private room. He needed a new IV, and I was handed a pair of vinyl gloves. I was eager to prove myself. The guy looked miserable. It was a hot, muggy Wisconsin summer day, and The VA didn’t have to air-condition, and I was sweating, and so was he.

The vinyl gloves I wore were loose and sticky on my hands as I tried to find a good vein. I didn’t like wearing gloves during procedures. They weren’t required if you can believe it, and I often went commando. So, I slipped them off.

I remember feeling the pop of the vein, watching the blood rush into the tubing. I got blood on my unprotected fingers. “Got it,” I said, and the man sighed with relief. “Thank you. That didn’t hurt this time.”

I felt relief and pride. Not the fear I should have felt. Not the emergent rush to wash the blood off my hands.

Hospital mandates changed quickly as we learned more about the bloodborne contagion. We were required to wear gloves during all procedures, the leaky vinyl ones, that we started with were traded out for latex ones. I heard factories had to be built quickly due to high demand. I soon understood the viral fear and worry of waiting in line to be tested for HIV as I had been exposed more than once in those early days.

I called my mom and she talked to me about when she was a new nurse in the height of the polio epidemic. How they knew nothing. I asked how did she get through it? How did she manage her fear? She said her mother told her about the Spanish flu and said, Worry is what you do when nothing can be done. It’s a waste of time.

[Tweet “Worry is what you do when nothing can be done. It’s a waste of time.”]

On my phone with my daughter, I listened to her cry, I felt anxious and helpless, but I knew a few things, this time around. Sweetie, I said, shut off the news, follow the hospital procedure. Be a little afraid. Take care of yourself first so you can take care of your patients and remember, try not to worry. Worry is what you do when nothing can be done.

And it’s a waste of time.

Be safe,

xo Ann

If you want to hear me read this 4-minute piece you can listen here: https://inside-stories.simplecast.com/episodes/inside-stories-covid-19-stories-2 I’m at about 2:38.

Photo credit. christian-widell-qWqj7_h0mxU-unsplash


  1. Tina P. Schwartz on April 17, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    Thank you for this assuring article. My son’s girlfriend is a nurse, and anxious about the lack of supplies. I shared this with her. Thank you!

    • Ann Garvin on April 17, 2020 at 5:41 pm

      Awww I’m so glad you shared this. I hope it brings her a little comfort. The whole business is so unfair and it’s our nurses that suffer.
      Thanks for your thoughts.

      • Tammy on April 17, 2020 at 7:02 pm

        My daughter in law is also a nurse. Proud of her and scared for her. But you’re right about worrying. There’s no point in it.
        Enjoyed the essay.

        • Ann Garvin on April 18, 2020 at 1:50 pm

          Thank you tammy. I so appreciate it. Thinking of your daughter-in-law during this time.

  2. Jamie on April 17, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    Great perspective! Thank you. I miss hearing you “lecture”. Tell stories. I hope you are well.

    • Ann Garvin on April 17, 2020 at 5:40 pm

      Jamie, Thank you!! I miss lecturing and telling stories in the class room. 🙂
      Glad we had that time together.

  3. Regina M Salvador on April 17, 2020 at 4:54 pm

    Thank you for this Ann. Such wise words of wisdom passed down through generations of brave women.

    A friend told me once, “Worry is a tool of the devil.” This is also true on so many levels. It is the epitome of negative self-talk.

    Praying for your daughter and all our heroes out there on the front lines.

    • Ann Garvin on April 17, 2020 at 5:40 pm

      Thank you Regina. We so appreciate your prayers and I agree. Worry is just anxiety but with a better name. It just doesn’t help us.

  4. Kathleen Bylsma on April 17, 2020 at 5:02 pm

    Good advice…proud of your daughter following in your footsteps…medicine has always been scary…when I worked in the ER and Psych med, I never knew what I was being exposed to when I was attacked, spat upon etc…you just do what you need to do…

    • Ann Garvin on April 17, 2020 at 5:35 pm

      It’s so true. You do what you have to do and you hope to come out of it ok. I loved my time as a nurse even if I wasn’t always the best at it. Thanks for this Kathleen!

    • Nita Haddad on April 18, 2020 at 10:27 am

      Your grandmother, mom and you are wise women! And all that is passing down to your beautiful daughter! Prayers for her and the medical community!

  5. Tracy Brody on April 17, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    Prayers for your daughter and her co-workers’ safety and them to have peace. A friend and her daughter are both working with covid positive patients at hospitals here and said it is hard.

    • Ann Garvin on April 17, 2020 at 5:38 pm

      Tracy thank you. These are some hard times. I truly think if we all help out we can come through it. 🙂

  6. Tracey Gemmell on April 17, 2020 at 5:09 pm

    An amazing account of healthcare worker resilience and your family’s commitment to others. Thank you.

  7. Ann Garvin on April 17, 2020 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks Tracey. My brother is/was a nurse too. I guess we all have the same thought and that is to help out a bit. 🙂
    Thank you!!

  8. Heather Bell Adams on April 17, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    Love the generational aspect to this story – and your heart. Thank you for sharing!

    • Ann Garvin on April 17, 2020 at 5:43 pm

      You are so welcome. When can we go back the beach???

  9. Liz Zelandais on April 17, 2020 at 5:56 pm

    So beautiful. The story is lovely, too. =) xo

    • Ann Garvin on April 18, 2020 at 1:51 pm

      Oh Liz, you sweet talker.
      Thank you for listening.

  10. Kate on April 17, 2020 at 7:38 pm

    Nurses rock! Here’s what my cousin posted about the situation. She works in home dialysis now, but used to work in the clinic. Yup, worrying is a waste of time!

    “Y’all would never last a regular day in nursing. We work in every, sometimes contaminated, bodily fluid you can think of. We deal with c-diff, MRSA, VRE, hepatitis, HIV/aids, ecoli, pseudomonas, flu, GI, scabies, bed bugs, etc… After we are done taking care of our patients we wash our hands and eat our lunch”

    • Ann Garvin on April 18, 2020 at 1:45 pm

      She’s got that right! Nurses have a totally different perspective and experience with infection.
      They do rock. So hard.

  11. Beth Havey on April 17, 2020 at 10:34 pm

    Thanks, Ann. I had to make sure in your AIDS story that you were okay. I remember some of the first deaths from AIDS, an ER nurse in Iowa, working with a bleeding patient–had cuts on her hands from gardening. No gloves. As an RN who worked during the H1N1 virus, I follow every rubric and encourage others to do so. I don’t care about what SOME THINK. I care about patients AND healthcare workers who every day are saving lives and risking their own. Blessings on your daughter.

    • Ann Garvin on April 18, 2020 at 1:50 pm

      I’m okay. I guess I was very lucky. Thank you for asking. I agree. This whole thing is about caring for people, loved ones and health care providers so lives can go on. Thanks for this, Beth 🙂

  12. denise on April 18, 2020 at 6:48 am

    My son’s wife is a NICU nurse. Major metropolitan hospital. I’m concerned for her safety, but I can’t let it worry me or keep me up at night. I know they take precautions for safety. She’s a year older than your daughter.

    You’re the source of calm and wisdom for your daughter, and she’s very lucky to have a such a knowledgeable resource in you as a mom and as a nurse.

    • Ann Garvin on April 18, 2020 at 1:44 pm

      I try not to worry too, it makes me feel terrible when I can’t do anything and so I try to walk away from worry. The ICU nurses have it a little better. Fewer patients and a more controlled environment. That makes me feel better for my daughter but that is cold comfort for the other nurses and health care professionals. They are such good people.
      Stay healthy Denise!

      • denise on April 19, 2020 at 2:03 am

        I’m trying, but my asthma isn’t behaving.

  13. Nancy Nakkula on April 21, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    Thank you Ann! Very timely message for so many. I’ll keep your daughter in my prayers. I was a new nurse when the Aids epidemic started and not following the rules about those ill fitting gloves. We took care of patients from a maximum security prison and I remember pin pricks from picking up the broken needle boxes that we used back then made from cardboard! Nursing has come a long way, but so much the same from a personal perspective. Yes, we’ll get through this together and I appreciate your wise words!

  14. Sherrey Meyer on April 22, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    Beautiful perspective, Ann, and good advice.

  15. Brenda on November 7, 2020 at 2:04 am

    Hi Ann, I follow a number of writers. Deborah Coonts wrote a nice letter about you and a link to your story about the pet whisperer. I have to tell you how much I enjoyed it. You have a great sense of humor. I would love to know what my rescue puppy thinks of his new home. Hope you dressed as a flower for your little “bee”.

    • Ann Garvin on November 7, 2020 at 6:17 pm

      Hi Brenda! So nice to meet you and I can’t tell you how glad I am to find a fellow pet person. I hope you stay and we get to know each other a little.

Leave a Comment