Alright, so it’s been a weird few days. COVID19 is a household known name now, and people are panicking (just a little???) I feel like it would be a lost opportunity to address some of the key things going on that are important to remember as we work through this challenging time. I also feel a bit obligated as I have had a lot of people ask me my opinion on “how bad this thing really is”. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I’ll share a few of my thoughts.
First off- we need to work together. Fighting and judging others for how they choose to go about preparing themselves and their families for this pandemic is not going to help any of us. But it is also important to remember that in a time like this we need to have compassion for others. I will start by saying that as a healthcare professional I am certainly not ignorant to the fact that this thing can be deadly. In speaking to some of the physicians I work with that have colleagues around the globe, the magnitude of this thing is very real. WHO doesn’t just declare worldwide pandemics without good cause.
With countries like Italy and China in complete turmoil, and the effects of that rippling through the economy and leaving people completely devastated. People are coming into emergency departments and staff are having to make decisions about who should live and who resources can’t be spared for. There aren’t enough ventilators in ICUs, not enough bed spaces for people who need them. It’s true, the average healthy person will experience something similar to the common cold. But for the elderly or immunocompromised, it can be devastating. In terms of the population I care for if you’re wondering children for the most part are pretty resilient/ healthy so they don’t expect they will be affected if they are not already medically fragile.
That being said, however- I would be amiss if I didn’t paint a clear picture of what we are dealing with here. Yes, absolutely this thing is contagious and has spread like wildfire and it is inevitable- here in Canada, and Ontario we will see (and have seen) it. If we put the proper precautions in place then we have a unique opportunity to learn from the “mistakes” (I use that word very loosely) of other countries and avoid further spread of this pandemic. So to all the people saying that this is “useless”- that is where I would disagree with you. We have to be a few steps ahead or we will never ever catch up to it.
All in all, we’ve done a pretty good job of minimizing exposure to an extent however in countries where this threat was not taken seriously and precautions were not put in place- that’s where we are seeing complete turmoil. To put it in perspective, we have only had one death and 153 confirmed cases across Canada, but worldwide over 135,000 cases have been confirmed and almost 5000 deaths have been reported. This is not over years- this is in sheer weeks. WHO (The World Health Organization) has stated “ in the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled”. The rate of spread is the issue here- and with more spread comes more risk of those vulnerable at risk populations being exposed to the virus.
People working in Italy, China, Singapore and many other places are online tweeting out to the medical community worldwide begging us to take this thing seriously to prevent what has happened to them and save lives that could have been spared. I know if it was my mother, father or grandparent I would want to give them the best chance I could. So that means STAYING HOME if you’re sick (you don’t need a (+) test result for that if you’re symptomatic.. don’t come to the doctor or hospital and expose others- especially if you’re a health care worker!) That also means having a healthy respect for this thing and washing your hands regularly, avoiding large gatherings, and finding that happy medium between being prepared and panicked. As many health officials worldwide have said – this pandemic could be the first that we could actually control.
People are buying out all the toilet paper they could imagine. For those who may not be able to afford to stock up like those who are more privileged, we are leaving those others without access to essentials and resources (not just the TP but all the things) that they may need if things do get bad.
Situations like this definitely have the capacity to show the worst in human beings (cue people shaming others for being prepared, or taking resources from those less privileged who need them). But they also have the capacity to bring us together. There is something about the feeling of a terribly awful situation where we try to plan for any of the potentials and the unexpected that brings us together. Things like this often show you both the best and worst of humanity in a multitude of ways.
Ultimately, if you are reading this you probably have privilege and power (whether you know it or not). The thoughts you share with the people in your circles and your community matter. We have an opportunity to share knowledge and understanding and NOT panic. Educate yourself and stay up to date with what is going on, and how best to prepare, prevent, treat it, and reduce spread. I’ve attached a link here to RNAO’s page dedicated to COVID19 management and prevention here if you are looking for great resources (that are being updated regularly- RNAO COVID19 Resources )! This is the stuff we should be sharing on our Instagram and Twitter, to your friends and family. Share the stories of the people who have and are living this thing who can tell us what we can perhaps expect. But let’s support each other with knowledge. Knowledge is power. Not panic. This post from a physician perspective is pretty humbling and resonated a lot with me, and I would suggest it is worth the read.
I do want to say though, for all you nurses and healthcare professionals out there– be VIGILANT in your PPE and infection control practices. That extra 30 seconds it takes you to put on your gown, gloves and mask to go into your patient’s room is worth it. Don’t expose yourself unecessarily- not only for you, but also because your patients are going to be relying on you to get through this thing. With your level of knowledge, understanding and expertise that won’t be able to be taught or disseminated to enough people during the healthcare staff shortage we are about to see. Especially if you are a healthcare worker remember to wipe your workstations, and to everyone- wash wash wash your hands and your tech (think about how many times we touch our phones with our dirty hands a day!)
One of my physician friends said to me that yesterday is “going to be a day we remember for a long time”. I would agree- the environment in the hospital was nothing like I have ever seen or experienced before. That’s saying a lot working in the ICU. People are scared, people are uncomfortable with the unknown. On top of that this is a big reminder to a lot of people of what SARS was like, which was before my time but from what I have heard I can only imagine equally if not more devastating.
This is not about it being “worse” or “better” than the flu. It’s not about that anymore because COVID19 is coming. Actually, it’s already here. And as government organizations mobilized yesterday to reduce exposure and prevent spread, healthcare workers took up the call to duty to battle this thing head on. I have to say I am proud to live and work in a place that has the resources to do this for the health and safety of myself, my family, and my patients/ their families. I am proud to be on the front lines with you. I am so proud to be a nurse- every day, but especially this week.
Take care of yourselves and take care of each other. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, but we will end up on the other side of this thing. We might just have a few hurdles along the way. Most of all, be kind. To finish off, here’s a couple funny memes to keep things light hearted in some very emotionally exhausting and serious times!