SEATTLE — When traveling nurse Alexis Hinkley posted a TikTok video voicing a plea for healthcare workers after months of treating COVID-19 patients, she didn't expect it to gain more than 10 million views or to garner the response that it did.
She's using the moment of attention to spread a message encouraging people to get vaccinated and get their booster shots.
Hinkley grew up in western Washington and now travels the country working as a traveling nurse - a job she loves, for many reasons.
"It becomes such an integral part of your identity, and it's not just you clock in and clock out. It's not a job that turns off when you go home," Hinkley said. "It does become a part of who you are and I think nursing for me just means serving my community, whatever community I'm in at that moment. And that's where travel nursing changes things. But I think at the end of the day, it's just really beneficial to be able to go home and know you made an impact on someone's potentially, really horrible day."
The pandemic brought unique challenges for nurses nationwide. Hinkley felt the strain firsthand and witnessed it among other healthcare workers.
"Nationwide, right now is some of the worst times we've seen in the pandemic and I know for me, and a lot of the coworkers I have and other peers in the medical industry that I've talked to, it does feel a little bit like we're screaming into the void," Hinkley said. "Things are not getting better, things are actually getting much worse, and especially now that we have more or less a mass exodus of nurses from the bedside, it doesn't look like we're gonna get better any time soon."
After a particularly challenging day, she posted this video:
It gained nearly 11 million views. Hinkley hopes adding her voice to the conversation will help give people an idea of the real individuals impacted by the pandemic.
"I've had a chance to think about [why it resonated] and the more I do I realize how obvious the message felt to me and I know it feels to other people that are in the industry, but I guess I just didn't realize how much of a piece of that the general population is missing," Hinkley said. "We can't strap GoPros to ourselves. There are laws that protect patient privacy. We can't film in hospitals and, unfortunately, what that leads to is a he-said she-said situation. If you're not working in the healthcare industry, I can empathize with it being confusing and not knowing where to get your information from or what's going on. So, for me, there's value in giving people a firsthand account."
Hinkley is asking anyone who hasn't gotten vaccinated to re-consider their choice after seeing many people who are not vaccinated in the hospital facing more serious symptoms. She is also encouraging anyone who is fully vaccinated but hasn't gotten a booster shot yet to do so.