There is a 1945 Rodgers & Hammerstein show tune from Carousel that has been stuck in my head for the past couple of months. I only know it because we played it as a warm-up song back in my high school marching band. It goes like this, “When you walk through a storm. Hold your head up high. And don't be afraid of the dark...”
We are clearly walking through a storm right now. Throughout our careers as nurses, we have found ourselves educating and providing advice to family and friends whether it be for a new diagnosis, a new medication, or a rash. Yet, during this pandemic, it has almost become a regular routine to serve as the “go-to” for information because nearly every day presents an opportunity to educate or dispel the latest conspiracy theory or Facebook rumor. Data, science, and evidence have been carelessly tossed aside for more convenient, polarizing, and self-serving theories. Yet through all of the noise, we continue to hear the first-hand accounts and experiences of nurses, physicians, and other members of the clinical team who are caring for patients in today's COVID-19 environment. Their stories tell us that the current pandemic is unlike anything that we have ever seen or prepared for. At the same time, we consistently hear reports about the lack of PPE, inadequate staffing, lack of consistent infection control standards, and mixed messages. The personal stories of healthcare workers are both heroic and heartbreaking, and as the most trusted profession for the past 18 years, we must continue to hold our heads up high.
“At the end of a storm, There's a golden sky, And the sweet silver song of a lark…”
Healthcare workers are brilliant, caring, and empathetic individuals and chose their discipline to make a positive impact. Unfortunately, some clinicians have paid the ultimate price and have died as a result of caring for COVID-19 patients. I urge you not to become numb to the deaths of our colleagues, and please don't let them die in vain. Read about each of them. We are a healthcare family, and they represent “us.” We need to keep walking to get to the “golden sky” and cannot forget our colleagues or allow them to become mere statistics.
“Walk on through the wind, Walk on through the rain, Though your dreams be tossed and blown…”
We have seen the wind and the rain, and it is frightening. Caring for COVID-19 patients is anxiety-producing for healthcare workers, and for good reason. In a survey performed by the American Nurses Association from 2 March - 10 April 2020, over 32,000 nurses responded and provided some insight into the concerns and fears of nurses at this time. The data is compelling. I encourage you to review the website and the survey data for yourself, but for now, here’s what stuck out to me:
- 76% are concerned about standards for treatments/care for COVID-19 patients.
- 75% are concerned about inadequate PPE.
- 64% are concerned with inadequate staffing/working short.
As we ring bells, clap, or howl around the country each evening to show gratitude to healthcare workers, the real question is what are we actually doing to support or help them? There are still PPE issues, the CDC keeps moving the goalposts, treatments are still elusive, and healthcare workers are still dying. So what can WE do to help ourselves, or our friends and family who are healthcare workers? Talk to your leaders. Write or call your professional associations and elected officials to advocate for protective equipment, testing, and a vaccine. Don’t give up your opportunity to share your voice. Why is it acceptable for the vocal minority to create the path for all of us? We need you to speak up, tell your stories, and share your evidence. Apathy is consent. We must “keep walking,” through the wind and rain, and keep the issues in front of EVERYONE.
“Walk on, walk on, With hope in your heart, And you'll never walk alone…”
The virus is still present, transmitting, moving around, and thriving among its human hosts. Please consider not only your own health, well-being, and safety, but also that of our healthcare family, for without them all of our futures are on shaky ground. But there is hope out there. Hope that together we can inform, educate, and influence. I have never been more proud to be a nurse. You are not alone. WE are not alone in this. Please join me, and let’s walk together through this.
Dr. Bonnie Clipper, DNP, RN, MA, MBA, CENP, FACHE, is the Chief Clinical Officer at Wambi, a patient engagement and employee recognition platform aimed at empowering compassionate care. She is a member of Sigma’s Epsilon Theta Chapter at The University of Texas at Austin in Austin, Texas, USA, and authored the Sigma book, The Nurse Manager’s Guide to an Intergenerational Workforce.