Imagine you’re a healthcare professional working at a nursing home. Imagine you live in close quarters with your spouse. And imagine asking yourself each morning, “Should I go into work today?”
That’s the harsh COVID-19 reality my friend – I’ll call her Ashley – faces each and every day.
“I have 40 patients,” she told me. “I have relationships with them. I have to keep them calm. I’m their circle of influence and hope. If I don’t go in, who’s going to take care of these people?”
Redefining the meaning of stress
There’s a lot in the news about the unimaginable stress that healthcare workers are facing in these turbulent times. The severe shortage of protective gear (PPE). The harsh math of too few ventilators. And the gut-wrenching reality that they will have to make life-and-death decisions about who gets care.
As if that weren’t enough, just the other day CNN reported that medical staff in New Delhi have been ostracized and discriminated against due to fears that they may be infected after working with coronavirus patients. “Some doctors have even reported being evicted, or facing threats that their electricity will be cut off,” the article notes.
Against this backdrop, there was something particularly heartbreaking and immediate in the stories my friend – a person I’ve known for decades – shared as she described the churning anxiety that defines the front lines of healthcare today. Ashley told me about a co-worker, a single mother, who lives in fear for the well-being of her son. “If she gets sick, who’s going to take care of her child?”
She told me patients are scared and worried the facility will be shut down. They’re agonizing over not seeing their families.
Let’s face it: Being a healthcare professional has never been an easy gig. As my colleague, Workhuman® senior writer Lauren Brown, noted in a blog long before we ever heard of COVID-19, “It takes a special kind of person to be a nurse. Someone who’s a rare blend of nurturing, compassionate, selfless, efficient, meticulous, kind, and engaging. And often, they’re working long shifts, well more than the eight hours most of us work on an average day, which takes its toll on body and mind.”
Stories of hope, positivity, and gratitude
Yet in the midst of all this, Ashley shared with me stories of hope, positivity, and gratitude. Stories of family members who hold up signs as they visit relatives from the safety of outside windows. Others who play music to serenade the patients. And still others who leave donuts as a humble expression of gratitude for the healthcare personnel at the home (which, unfortunately, they can’t eat).
While Ashley expressed frustration that she can’t do more for her patients, I was moved by her relentless determination to do the best she can under the circumstances. For instance, she has taken it upon herself to seek out new sources for PPE.
In the end, the very things that help lift and motivate healthcare professionals still apply today – just a whole lot more. As healthcare IT and workforce management expert Cheryl Goldberg observes in her blog, recognition, empathy, regular communication, and recognizing employees’ life beyond work creates a culture that enables nurses to do their best work: “Recognition is the number one thing managers can give employees to inspire them and improve retention,” she notes.
COVID-19 hits home
In preparation for this post, Ashley had arranged for me to speak with her sister-in-law – I’ll call her Janis – a nurse at a large metropolitan hospital. Unfortunately, before we could speak, Janis fell ill. And while her test isn’t back yet, it’s almost certain she has COVID-19.
In a month filled with reality checks, that brought home our new reality in a profound new way.
On behalf of Workhuman, please stay safe and healthy.
About the AuthorMore Content by Aaron Kinne