Nurses’ yearning to be supported and seen as human beings.

Fluorescent lights flicker. A relentless symphony of beeps and alarms, the scent of disinfectant wipes seeping through the fibers of a surgical mask. Keystrokes on keyboards keep charts in check while medications are meticulously prepared: the science of nursing, a 24/7, 365-day dance of care. In stolen moments of quiet—in empty locker rooms or bathroom stalls—the weight of the workload settles. Tears well up in eyes etched with exhaustion under the crushing burden of impossible patient ratios, the sting of disrespect from colleague and patient.

Nurses are classified as hospital overhead, a line item on a spreadsheet, and our humanity is rarely considered. A stolen sip of water during a 12-hour shift is a luxury. Bathroom breaks are a gamble, the ever-present fear that a patient’s need, a monitor’s alarm, or a desperate call for help will erupt the moment we look away. We are the invisible safety net, the unwavering presence, the nurse at your bedside.

Behind our dedication to our profession lies many unspoken truths. We function within a system that depends on our commitment yet has not committed to us and seems to forget the high price we pay for such loyalty. Though we are expected to quietly color within the lines, the pandemic’s wake leaves us grappling with who we are, what we stand for, navigating the fractured trust between nurses, patients, and hospitals. A quiet storm brews—of exhaustion, frustration, and the yearning to be regarded as human beings with needs as deserving of care as those of the patients we devote ourselves to protecting.

Exploring an ancient tragedy’s resonance for the present experience of nurses.

Enter The Nurse Antigone, a project by and for nurses, offering a lifeline in this storm. Co-hosted by Maryland’s R3: Resilient Nurses Initiative, this captivating reimaging and dramatic reading on Zoom of Sophocles’ classic Greek tragedy features performances by acclaimed actors and a chorus of frontline nurses.

“By empowering nurses to perform and reflect upon this ancient play about a young woman who puts everything on the line to bury her brother after a brutal civil war,” the dramatic readings from this tragedy create a space to facilitate guided conversations about the challenges we face as nurses, the dilemmas that weigh on us, and the toll of our work. Here art and science converge, reminding us of who we are at our core and giving voice to the unseen scars we carry.

The discomfort of questioning the status quo.

As Black nurses, we’ve found this experience resonates especially deeply. We are often racialized before we are humanized; our experiences and challenges are often met with deafening silence. This reality is further echoed in societal attitude toward nurses. When the play’s chorus states, “Silence can be just as ominous as wailing,” we are reminded of the uncomfortable position of nurses in questioning a status quo that depends on our continuing complacency in our own exploitation.

Fortunately, The Nurse Antigone events serve as a powerful reminder: silence is incompatible with liberation. We must speak out against injustice, no matter the discomfort. The project creates a sanctuary where once-whispered experiences of inequity find their voice. This shared narrative inspires a chorus of nurses courageously voicing their realities to a listening audience of peers and the public. And through that speaking, the room transforms. The space is no longer just a safe space, but a place designed to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” as Bryan Doerries, the Theater of War artistic director, says in his closing remarks. Here, we confront the silenced realities of nursing, the implicit bias, empathy fatigue, moral injury, burnout, and the pervasive violence we experience.

Every Theater of War event is a pilgrimage, a connection to a community united in holding space for hard truths. Here we gain insight, understanding, and a sense of shared humanity. The Nurse Antigone is a testament to the power of shared stories. It reminds us that true healing requires compassion, empathy, and truth, shining a light on the wounds we carry and the systemic issues that have long ailed us as nurses. We are reminded that nursing can heal our patients, heal ourselves, and heal the world.

Let’s join the conversation, reclaim the silenced parts of ourselves, and ensure that the science, the art, and the soul of our nursing profession thrives once more. How can nurses make their voices heard today?

Charlaine Lasse, MSN, RN, RNC-NIC, has over 30 years of experience in neonatal intensive care, pediatrics, and vascular-access, and will soon venture into nursing academia. Charlaine engaged with Theater of War Productions and R:3 Resilient Nurses Initiative at a juncture where leaving the profession had become a career option. Her convergence with these projects has reignited her passion for nursing. 

Craig Manbauman, BSN, is a family nurse practitioner student at the Yale School of Nursing and a United States Air Force veteran. Drawing from his undergraduate degree in political science and committed to social change and equity, Craig believes in the transformative power of nursing to pave the way toward a more just and equitable future. He has participated in Theater of War productions of The Nurse Antigone as an audience member, a panelist, and an actor.


The post A Chorus of Nursing Voices and the Timeless Truths of Ancient Tragedy appeared first on Off the Charts.


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