During the 1918 influenza outbreak, both hope and medicines were in short supply because the world had not yet discovered antibiotics. The science of immunizations was not advanced enough yet to respond quickly. With nothing but a linen mask over their faces, nurses ventured into badly ventilated rooms to nourish and care for patients. How remarkable is it that, some 102 years later, nursing’s legacy remains one of endurance and empathy?
(WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, which set in motion a chain of events the world has yet to recover from. Those on the frontlines, RPNs and your colleagues haven’t been able to come up for air in 365, and still counting, days.
In the initial days of the pandemic, when little was known about the virus except that it was deadly and extremely contagious, nurses didn’t flinch. You risked your lives and the lives of your loved ones and showed up for work. You took on an invincible and largely unknown enemy by reverting to the basics of your education– infection prevention and control, compassion, and a whole lot of common sense.
Since then, you’ve faced constant exhaustion from doing double and even triple shifts and then stripping down and showering before hugging your families to minimize the risk of infecting them. Some of you even had to live apart from loved ones to prevent the spread.
The theme of our Spring issue is Resilience. Nurses exemplify this in spades. Performing in a high-stress environment requires a special kind of grit. And I am convinced, this virtue is embedded in a nurse’s DNA. Now more than ever, nurses are paying an enormous physical and emotional price for choosing a profession that demands them to perform optimally even when they are running on empty.
A nurse’s world has always included taking care of the sick and the frail, but the pandemic has introduced new challenges. The decrease in staffing levels and increase in the workload means that many of you are juggling several responsibilities while helping manage outbreaks in your workplace and taking care of your families.
In the pages that follow, we have captured some of your voices and experiences from the last year. And even though your individual experiences vary, the underlying thread remains the same: your enormous capacity for compassion and your resilience in the face of uncertainty. All of us owe you a huge debt of gratitude. I am filled with respect, pride, and admiration at your selfless service day after day.
I also want you to know that even though we’re focusing on resilience, I am also aware sometimes there’s simply no surplus supply of courage left to borrow, and that’s perfectly OK. Just know, we admire you nevertheless.
I know we will still face bumps in the road ahead. When the vaccines arrived late last year, I felt a sense of hope. Unfortunately, the shortage and the slow pace of inoculation roll-out have been disappointing, to say the least. I know most of you feel the same way and, like me, are frustrated with the delay.
The next several months will continue to be difficult, but I urge you to be intentional about taking care of yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup. As nurses, it’s almost instinctual to care for others, but it’s equally important that you prioritize your emotional and physical wellbeing too.
I know you are hurting emotionally and physically from the unending cycle of gloom. We hear your despair. And that’s why I want to stress the importance of self-care and encourage you to take on an activity that will help you decompress from the daily stressors. I hope you will find some answers—and— inspiration in the pages that follow.
It’s also important to know you can rely on your nursing community. Lean on to your co-workers or reach out to offer an ear to those struggling. Talk and support one another as you collectively shoulder the burden the pandemic has placed upon you. And should there be a need, please talk to a trained professional.
As your professional association, we are here to support you every step of the way on this journey. Whether you have questions about safe practice, want access to resources about safely donning and doffing your PPE or need support for your next career step, you can count on us to be here to support you. I ask that you continue sharing your experiences and include us as you navigate your way. I assure you WeRPN will make sure your voices are heard.
Dianne Martin, RPN