Stories of Humanity and Gratitude: Revisiting the Front Lines of Healthcare
Watch today’s episode of “Keeping Work Human” featuring an interview with two healthcare professionals.
It’s hard to believe more than three weeks have gone by since Workhuman® published the story of my friend “Ashley,” a healthcare professional working at a nursing home here in the Northeast. As you’ll recall, her account chronicled the unimaginable stress, trauma, and fear that healthcare professionals confront in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.
Despite the “churning anxiety” that defines the frontlines of healthcare today, Ashley tapped into her inner spirit of hope, positivity, and gratitude. Those who read her story were deeply moved by her courage and relentless determination to perform her best under the circumstances. How many of us – given her situation – would take it upon ourselves to look for new sources of personal protective equipment?
With that as a backdrop, I’d like to share an important new initiative from Workhuman, designed to help us recognize the extraordinary courage and selflessness of healthcare workers. It’s a new website Workhuman has created: Thank you, healthcare.
Here, you can express your gratitude to remind healthcare workers everywhere just how much the world appreciates them. And you can come back often and see how gratitude is bringing the world together.
Your expression of gratitude can go a long way in making our healthcare heroes feel inspired and lift them up in these difficult times.
In addition, I think it’s important to once again acknowledge the incredible work our healthcare professionals are doing during this unprecedented moment in history. To recognize them, I’ve assembled some recent stories that remind us of their humanity – their struggles, hopes, and victories – as we enter what is predicted to be the most critical time of the crisis.
“I’ve started to refer to the time before this as peace time. Because this feels like a war,” observes Simone Hannah-Clark, an intensive-care nurse in New York City.
That’s the prelude to Simone’s gut-wrenching, firsthand account of what her life is like on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle: Leaving her husband and children in the darkness of morning; days spent tending very sick patients; watching others die; and returning home, wondering if she has taken all the precautions needed to protect her family.
Describing the role of nurses in this war, she notes, “Doctors may be the architects of what happens in the hospital. But we [nurse] are the builders. And so we build, even amid chaos and disintegration.”
During these often dark days, it is so refreshing to see a story of positivity, enthusiasm, and unbridled joy. And that’s exactly what nurse Kala Baker and her colleagues at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Mo., gave us. Their dance video has quickly gained millions of views on TikTok, and proves, once again, that forging strong connections with your co-workers and embracing positivity can lift us even during the most challenging situations.
“Obviously, it’s been just a little bit stressful around here,” Kala notes. “It was a good way to step away from our work for a second and bring some joy to the people around us and to my co-workers – that we could all get together and do something fun.”
With the overwhelming volume of COVID-19 news, you may not realize that World Health Day (WHD) came and went last week. I know I missed it. Because this year’s event was dedicated to recognizing the work of nurses and midwives, I thought it important to include this WHD article from CNN, profiling three healthcare professionals as they “describe their life calling, their mission now, and the personal toll the pandemic is taking.”
Sara Wazlavek echoes a theme I’ve heard all too many times while covering healthcare professionals during this pandemic: the fear of bringing the virus home. “Nursing is Wazlavek’s calling,” the article points out, “but her identity is mother and wife.”
Chandler Scott, a neonatal intensive care nurse, morns the fact that birthing has, out of necessity, become a cold process for everyone involved. “Babies get separated immediately from parents and placed in quarantine until deemed safe to return to the mother,” she says.
And then there’s the case of Jessica Baker, a public health nurse in Georgia, who administers COVID-19 tests and informs uninsured and low-income people about available services. Like so many nurses rising to the occasion, “I always knew there was a chance that I would be called to the front line if there was a crisis, and I have been ready to answer that call.”
Sadly, there are plenty of stories about the many traumas, fears, and anxieties healthcare professionals are facing in the maelstrom of COVID-19. Which raises the question: How will we take care of these heroes once the pandemic slows?
As Professor Connie M. Ulrich notes: “Hospital administrators, educators, researchers, and others must begin to develop and implement interventions to address the trauma and psychological damage sustained by healthcare workers on the front lines.”
She cites a National Academy of Medicine report that urges an intensely human approach to lifting up and recognizing what are sure to be emotionally scarred healthcare professionals: “Care leaders and managers are asked to provide clear messages that clinicians are valued and to establish a blame-free work culture. Clinicians themselves are advised to stay connected to colleagues and practice self-care techniques.”
She believes we will soon need “ways to identify and provide help to the individuals with invisible wounds among the many thousands of nurses, doctors, and other clinicians who accepted extraordinary risks on the public’s behalf during the pandemic.” As she concludes, “We need to get better at protecting those who are most valuable to protecting us.”
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