Perhaps the most uniquely devastating thing - which separates this pandemic from every other situation we face as professionals – is seeing colleagues rapidly switch from being the caregiver to being the patient.
It can be the greatest honour to bring comfort to a friend and colleague but a genuinely traumatic event too. Thankfully, many are bouncing back rapidly after milder cases. But dozens of nursing staff have already paid the highest price for dedicating their working life to the good health of others.
The steady stream of very heavy news makes it difficult to get a break, even when you’re not on a shift. We must tell ourselves, and those we work with, quite simply: ‘it’s ok to not be ok’.
I’m the first to talk about the professionalism of nursing staff and the intense education we’ve had - in and out of the classroom – for everything life throws at us. As nursing staff, there’s little we haven’t seen. But this is something we’ve never worked with before and so it’s more important than ever to ask after each other’s wellbeing.
Nothing is more important to me that your physical and psychological safety – having both the kit you need to feel safe, and the support to feel resilient.
The RCN has developed a full range of resources on personal protective equipment and wellbeing and members can also access the RCN counselling service. Whenever you need to, please make the most of them and tell your colleagues too. You can also contact the RCN Direct advice service. I am following what comes through there and making sure the RCN responds to the issues you’re raising.
On Tuesday, the country is expected to fall silent at 11am to remember the key workers from health care and other sectors who have lost their lives during this pandemic. After weeks of morale-boosting claps, this silence will be a poignant moment to remember those who can no longer hear the applause they deserve.
With public support like we have witnessed, I am confident of building a better future for nursing in honour of those who gave their lives. The nursing profession has spent recent years making a considered case for patient safety and our expectation of professional respect.
The need for each of those is only growing stronger this year. Together, we will make a watershed moment of 2020.