Alexis Hinkley is a 26-year-old neurocritical care nurse from Issaquah, Washington who has spent the last year working as a travel nurse in Colorado, California, and most recently, rural Oregon.
Recently, Alexis went mega-viral on TikTok for sharing her frustrations after a particularly grueling shift in the emergency department: "One thing that I wish more non-medical people understood, when they bring up the 'survival rate' of COVID, is that no beds in the hospital means no beds."
In the video, which now has nearly 11 million views, Alexis explains that because COVID-19 cases continue to overwhelm US hospitals across the country, there aren't enough beds, spaces, or resources to treat other sicknesses and emergencies. "No beds for your stroke, no beds for your heart attack, no beds for your car crash, no beds for your sick child."
She continues, "You might be very comfortable with the survival rate of COVID, but how comfortable are you with the survival rate of a massive M1 MCA stroke with no TPA, because we can't accept you at any of your local hospitals, because our [emergency department] is overflowing with patients already? Are you comfortable with those odds? I bet the fuck not."
"No beds means no fucking beds," Alexis concludes. "You die alone, at home. Your parents die alone, at home. Please, please start listening to the healthcare workers when they scream for you to help us."
BuzzFeed reached out to Alexis, who said that she almost didn't post the TikTok because it "felt too obvious" to point out the crisis she and her fellow healthcare workers are dealing with. She also didn't want to come off as angry, before realizing she absolutely had a right to be. "I had just finished 13 hours in our emergency department, and I'd personally had a really bad shift. I’d had multiple patients code, I’d been working a crisis assignment, and I’d been in the emergency department for the past month."
"We had over 30 people on gurneys in the hallway and we were trying to code a person. ... We're short on beds, we're short on staff, we're short on everything. ... We were trying to run the hallway of an emergency department to get to a patient who's crashing, and we were bumping into gurneys with patients and family members sitting on them! There shouldn’t be people in the hallway of a hospital, ever. Not in the 'richest country in the world.' It feels so pointless to even say that, but it needs to be said."
She told BuzzFeed, "'No beds,' at its core, means that COVID affects everything. It’s not just this singular virus that's encapsulated in a bubble that only affects the people who are getting COVID. It’s so much bigger than that. And I know a lot of people have heard it echoed over the past year that our healthcare system is being overwhelmed, but they might not know what that actually looks like."
"And so, I guess what I was trying to communicate is that this virus affects so much more than the people on their couch missing work. And what that looks like, as far as the healthcare system goes, is a very overwhelmed, overworked system that spills out and affects all the other people who are having normal, everyday illnesses and diseases."
Alexis's TikTok received an overwhelmingly powerful response. Thousands of people chimed in to tell Alexis that her words had changed their minds about COVID-19 and getting vaccinated.
There also were many testimonies from both healthcare workers and regular people who lost patients and loved ones due to the lack of resources and overwhelming amount of COVID patients still filling hospitals.
And with the ultra-contagious Omicron variant continuing to overrun hospitals and emergency departments across the country, Alexis wanted to make one thing clear: COVID is not, and never will become, "just like the flu." "We have never had a flu season that has overwhelmed our hospitals to this extent. The flu has never done what this virus has done, and it never will."
When asked what those of us who are still healthy can do to help healthcare workers during this time, Alexis responded, "Really, the biggest way to help healthcare workers right now is to get vaccinated, get your boosters, and still follow whatever protocols you can while maintaining your life. That’s really the best way that people can help right now, because this virus doesn't discriminate, it doesn’t care how old you are. One of my best friends just posted that she put a 21-year-old in a body bag from Omicron."
"It might feel less severe to the average person, because most viruses don’t kill every person they touch, but that’s not the point. What I really want people to hear right now is that we’re still in the heat of this, and just because something is being portrayed as less severe, that doesn’t mean it actually is. And the best case scenario right now is to avoid getting the virus altogether."
Alexis asked to close this interview by reminding everyone that vaccinations and boosters are still free of charge in the US and the government is now offering to send four free COVID-19 test kits to every household in the country. You can also find a vaccine/booster site near you with the government's national locator.
Alexis, thank you. You can follow her on TikTok and Instagram to see her journey as a healthcare worker (still) on the frontlines.