MNU is going

Behind the Mask

If you are a nurse, a patient, or know a nurse who is struggling, speak up. Your voice is powerful and has the ability to help others.

Channel your inner COURAGE and support Manitoba nurses.

The more vulnerable we get, the more Manitobans are taking notice. That’s bravery at its finest.

Meet Sarah...

This isn't her real name.

She doesn’t want to be identified for fear of jeopardizing her job, for being targeted for speaking up. She’s afraid of breaking down or opening her mouth and letting the truth spill out.

Sarah has been a nurse for 17 years now, but for the first time in her career, she’s second guessing her profession. She doesn’t feel able to provide the quality of patient care she’s accustomed to. She feels like she’s letting everyone, herself included, down.

When she comes home after a 12- or 16-hour shift, in the middle of night or when her family is just waking up, she struggles silently. She puts on a brave face to protect her family from her trauma, to shield them from her pain.

When she is lucky enough to be home with them at bedtime, to be able to tuck her children in, she feels flooded with sorrow. She thinks about all of the little ones growing up in a province that pays lip service to the frontlines. She thinks about the elders in her care and feels like a fraud, like she’s let down those who fought so hard for a nation that seems to be forgetting about them. People whose families assumed end-of-life care would be up to Canadian standards.

Daily, Sarah struggles with her own psychological well-being. With a pandemic that has been nothing short of horrific. The things Sarah has seen she cannot undo. The grief, the loss, the erosion of a job she once loved. She rarely eats a meal anymore. Her adrenaline supply is short, her feelings of disrespect high.

And so for now, she is safe, behind the mask, hiding her pain. But at what cost?

Meet Maria...

She struggles daily, feeling unprepared.

She’s afraid of making the wrong decision. She’s afraid of not making a decision. She’s afraid one wrong move will cause her to lose a patient.

Maria has been a nurse for almost a decade. She works in the community but recently has been redeployed. Overnight. Her employer tells her it’s because she’s needed in the ICU. But what they don’t tell her is how she will function there.

On her way to her first shift, she pulls over to the side of the road, sick to her stomach. She didn’t sleep much, her body shakes as she drives towards downtown. 

She’s never been in a role like this before. She never considered taking the extra training required to work with the most ill. The patients whose odds aren’t in their favour.

Please don’t let anyone die, she thinks.

They call her an extender. She’s been moved from her regular placement to a new job site. She was told there would be a nurse quarterback, someone who would help her learn the role. A role that takes time, skill and intuition.

She knows her seasoned ICU colleagues want to help her. She sees empathy in their eyes, but she can’t force herself to stop them on their way by, to ask what she should do next. 

And she can’t stop seeing the faces of the family she Zoomed in last night; her dying patient’s family, to say goodbye.

And so for now, she feels safe behind the mask, hiding her pain. But at what cost?

Meet Morgan...

She works in Emergency at one of the city’s major hospitals.

Her role is intense. Her body runs on adrenaline. Her movement on instinct.

Morgan has been a nurse for fourteen years. Always in Emerg, where chaos and uncertainty are the norm. A place that once housed a tight team of colleagues turned friends, who relied on one another to triage every patient that arrived. Assess each situation.

Her employer tells her ER nurses are appreciated. But Morgan knows better. She sees the reality. Her colleagues are leaving at an alarming rate. The Emergency Room never closes. Its doors constantly open, one crisis after another. The patient in cardiac arrest, acute respiratory failure, stroke, overdose, the list goes on.

Oftentimes the waiting room is overcrowded. The caregivers are exhausted and overworked, the patients desperate, and the atmosphere nerve-wracking. The nurses are the ones who are often on the receiving end of the frustrations. It’s unpredictable. People act out, sometimes with violent actions. They shoulder the harassment; the criticism of a system not functioning optimally.

Morgan is burning out. She’s exhausted. She feels deflated, she too thinks about leaving the ER, and truthfully, the profession. But for now, she’s forced to work double shifts knowing her absence would be one more blow to anyone left standing in the ER.

Just thinking about the lack of support; the gravity of the situation, the never-ending line up of people needing help and no recruitment in sight makes her feel infuriated.

Knowing she doesn’t want her patients to know just how bad the situation is, she hides, behind the mask. But at what cost?

Meet Linda...

She works in the ICU.

She’s what they call a quarterback. She is supposed to take the ball and communicate the play. Her goal is to get a touchdown, only this isn’t a game. She’s ‘quarterbacking’ inexperienced, redeployed nurses and the ball is a patient’s life.

She too doesn’t want her name published for fear of being reprimanded. The system isn’t working, her voice is so weak, even if she had time, the desire, the plays could not be heard.

She chose to work in the ICU because she wanted to make a difference. Her colleagues did too. It’s an area of the profession that requires extra training, it’s intense. People could die. The system is stretched beyond capacity, her employers keep offering lip service, her will is about to break.

Linda used to work to keep her patients alive. There aren’t enough respirators, hours in the day, nurses. 

Her employer tells her to be a good neighbour. Consider volunteering to help other provinces in crisis. Don’t they know Manitoba is in crisis? The ICU is in crisis. Linda is in crisis.

She doesn’t know how much more she can take. Just thinking about the grief, the patients she’s lost… how many more balls have to drop before someone blows the whistle? She thinks about the team in the ICU that was once one – a family.

She feels ashamed of the way things are being handled and so she hides, behind the mask. But at what cost?

These are the nurses

Behind the Mask.

Check back regularly, as we will be adding more stories.

Meet Jim...

He’s not a nurse. He doesn’t get paid to hold up the frontline. But he knows it well.

His mom lives in a personal care home. She’s battling dementia. She doesn’t remember yesterday, but she remembers everything about him when he was little; how he used to play kick ball and jacks. How proud she was of his accomplishments, how much he loved her freshly baked Saskatoon pie.

Every night that he leaves her, he’s spent. He’s disgusted with the system. He knows they can’t keep up.

Every night, as he gets into bed, his heart breaks. Not just for the woman he calls mom, but for the staff.

He sleeps lightly, he’s afraid of each call. He doesn’t want to hear she fell out of bed; or that she’s agitated and won’t take her meds. He doesn’t want to see another new face or hear of one more vacancy.

He wants to fight back; fight for health care, fight for change. Our elders deserve better, he thinks. Our nurses deserve more. But he too is tired. And deflated. Behind his mask, he’s also suffering but mostly of shame. 

Behind his mask, he can’t stop thinking about losing his patience, his temper, or worse, his mom.

Behind Jim’s mask, he’s decided it’s time to vote for change.

These are the stories

Behind the Mask.

We all feel the impact, and something needs to change.

As of March 31, 2021 it’s been 4 Years. That’s


days (and counting) nurses have
worked without a contract...

How can YOU
channel YOUR inner


Stand in solidarity with Manitoba Nurses. Email Heather Stefanson, Minister of Health and Seniors Care PC, to express your concern for the health and welfare of nurses and their patients. Contact your MLA. Do your part to stay safe and remember to be kind to those on the front lines. Share our posts on social media, help us spread awareness about the harsh realities nurses have faced before, and throughout this pandemic.


Go behind the mask with us, and get a glimpse inside the life of a nurse. Frontline workers are viewed as heroes, and they most certainly are. But underneath that PPE, they are human beings, whose physical and mental health are being compromised as they care for us. These eye-opening stories need to be put in the spotlight. We'll be adding more stories to the Behind the Mask series over the next month. Please check back regularly.


Follow us on our Facebook and Instagram. Stay in the loop as we continue to tell nurses' stories. It’s where we will be updating you on legislation, bargaining, news from around the globe as well as right here at home. Help us push the needle forward for positive change by sharing our posts. And, if you, a patient, or a nurse you know is struggling, please share your story with us by emailing us.

Innercourage.ca  |  2021