A few important things....
Trust and transparency are everything.
It doesn’t get any more elemental than being able to trust that the air that we breathe won’t kill us.
Confusing messaging (at all levels) breeds mistrust.
Mistrust breeds moral distress.
As a frontline worker, I need to trust the CDC's integrity and that it is the definitive voice of science as a public health emergency evolves.
I need to trust the integrity of my institution; I need to trust that the leadership is making the best, most rational, ethical decisions based on the information that they have. I need to trust that the hospital is efficiently changing protocols in real time as information changes. I need to trust that they believe the health and wellbeing of the workforce is essential~ that the workforce is valuable~ and that the institution understands that it is in EVERYONE’S interest for us to be well.
As nurses, and members of a multidisciplinary healthcare team, we have always worked as an interconnected network of care. In the time of the pandemic, it has become vividly apparent that we need to be able to trust each other. I am a bedside pediatric oncology nurse. We have to trust each other every day to provide care for our patients and their families. Now, we trust each other to maintain vigilance in our lives so that we can protect each other from contracting the virus. As a person who falls into a few high risk categories, I need to trust that my colleagues will protect my life by being cautious themselves. (Just pause for a moment to reflect on that last statement…. That it is a distillation of fact, and not hyperbolic or inflammatory.)
Flexibility is the coin of the realm. During the pandemic, I have seen nurses rising to the occasion in truly remarkable ways. People have courageously gone beyond their comfort zones, into unfamiliar environments and roles to serve the cause. It is crucial for nurses to educate and acculturate towards flexibility. Building cultures/teams that embrace flexibility is a means to inoculate against the shock and challenge of change~ especially the kind of radical, emergent, rapid-fire change that we have all experienced this year.
This is very complex for nurses, as our specialties and our teams are very much connected to our identity and our integrity. Nimbleness, serving the moment, and team identity need to be equally valued. Flexibility needs to be part of our team identity.
This is a real opportunity to shine light on the importance of wellbeing, resilience and mental health. More than ever, we are now part of a traumatized workforce and we are serving a traumatized populace. The downstream mental health ramifications of the pandemic, rife with loss, anger, sadness, developmental delays, financial ruin, and social injustice will be with us for years. If there is an upside to this, maybe it is that the universality of the pandemic has moved us closer to normalizing the need for us to foster internal and external resources for resilience and support.
As professional caregivers, we bear witness to pain and suffering on a regular basis. This is the very meaning of compassion. Covid-19 draws attention to the fact that nobody is exempt. We all experience pain and suffering. It is part of the pandemic. It is part of life.
There is strength in acknowledging our vulnerability. And in acknowledging our vulnerability, we acknowledge our shared humanity. We are in this together.
It is crucial for us to nurture workplaces where we foster genuine compassion for each other.
Trust. Transparency. Flexibility. Resilience. Kindness.
As a founding member of the Johns Hopkins RISE team (Resilience In Stressful Events: volunteer peer responders who offer psychological first aid support for healthcare workers who are experiencing the impact of stressful events), I can attest to the fact that the individuals and teams that fostered these elements in advance of the pandemic are better situated to process and cope with the unprecedented stressors with which they have been presented thus far.