The day the world stopped …. I remember it really well as it was the day after my daughters birthday. Though I suppose it wasn’t really a sudden stop, but rather a gradual slow down over a few days; first the vulnerable were told to stay in, then the schools closed, then the restaurants and bars closed and finally people stopped going out to work. The roads became quiet, our cities went into hibernation and the earth became silent …. mostly !
The day the earth went quiet nurses got called into action and like many I responded to that call and took up clinical practice again. I won’t deny that it was a scary time, to nurse people with a highly contagious disease is not a decision that anyone should take lightly, the risks to ourselves, as nurses, and our families we all took merely by answering that call to action were huge … yet answer it we did.
The day everyone put their feet up and started zooming, face-timing, binge-watching, puzzle-completing, baking, virtually connecting and ordering online nurses were on their knees. The place where I worked saw 16 deaths in 14 days, we had staff who were off shielding or off sick, there were staff who worked for 14 days without a break, we were donning and doffing PPE, we were finding new ways of working, we were hand-washing until our hands were raw, we wore masks until our faces and ears were sore, we were video calling relatives so they could say goodbye to loved ones one last time, we were crying and we were not hugging. And then the reports of nurses dying came in … and we all cried and none of us will ever forget.
The day that everyone stayed in, nurses went out and we went out day after day. I recall feeling grateful that the roads were quiet and I could get to and from work without being stuck in traffic. People stuck up signs and painted rainbows to thank key workers and carers which made me smile. When everyone clapped for carers the boost was immense, friends, families and neighbours all showing appreciation for those who kept going and those who were nursing the most vulnerable members of our society.
The day the world started to revolve again was a relief, the hope of some sort of normality on the horizon is one that has certainly kept me going … yet in the back of my mind is the worry that the emotional and physical burden that nurses have carried throughout this pandemic will have a lasting impact. It’s only now that we are all taking stock and reflecting and realising the incredibly challenging journey we have taken. And whilst the world starts to take it’s first tentative steps back into society we are still working to pick up the pieces, we are facing increases in infection rates, increases in pressure ulcers, decreases in wellbeing, increases in depression, increases in non urgent care now becoming urgent and underneath this all is the voice in the back of our heads that asks “could I have prevented this?” … of course the reality is that when you have an extended period of a large amount of people requiring more care coupled with a diminished workforce there was always going to be an impact.
And now …. now the future is uncertain, there is lots still to reflect on and lots of work still to do. If I had to do the last few months over again would I do the same ? Would I answer that call to action? My answer is yes …. because I am a nurse and this is what we do.
In years to come people will ask what did you do during the 2020 pandemic? My biggest hope for nursing is that we will proudly hold our heads high and say “I nursed”