Remember the moment you decided that a career in healthcare was for you.

Regardless of how you were going to manifest your ability to care for others, skilled, clinical, or in an administrative role, there was that moment. Somehow that moment resonated with your purpose, your sense of social justice and dare I say, your sense of pride. You were going to have a career that mattered. You were going to know that no matter how your day went, going to work and doing your best made a difference.

Some of us took vows. I remember reciting the Nightingale Pledge for the first time. As I pledged to practice my profession faithfully somehow, there was an understanding that I was also acknowledging that this oath was for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, etc. I had a sense of alignment and destiny. I have come face to face many times with that alignment over the past 42 years of practice, but never did I imagine COVID-19 pandemic as part of my destiny. I read a statement from a physician colleague who made the analogy that given the number of patients and the lack of human and material resources, we are fighting a raging forest fire with a water gun. That’s what it feels like.

I’ve been through something similar many years ago. The NYC hospital I was working at as a per diem emergency department nurse was being acquired but had not fully transitioned. During this time, supplies were not reordered. We were told to try to make do. I oversaw that ED on the weekends. I would arrive early to make a shopping list of basic equipment and supplies. I would give that list to my EMS colleagues as they brought in patients, look them in the eye, and ask them to borrow (steal) from the surrounding hospitals and bring us what we needed to get through that night shift. Those earth angels never let us down.

However, as we rise to meet the challenge of this pandemic, there is no NYC hospital that has anything to steal. There are no basic supplies, no personal protective equipment, no staff, nothing. COVID-19 humbled the best and most competitive healthcare systems in the country into a level playing field. We are equally challenged, equally overwhelmed. The best we can offer is empathy and prayer which was something we usually reserve for our patients and their families.

Everyone is working despite enormous challenges to take care of their patients, take care of their families, and to try to find the time, let alone the energy, to take care of themselves as well.  When I coach/speak with individuals almost every one of them shares that they are trying to keep a confident attitude by focusing on positive emotions such as humor and gratitude. Everyone is trying to find a way to hang on to hope.

Hope is an odd little positive emotion. One of my teachers, Dr. Dan Tomasulo, describes it is the only positive emotion that requires something unwanted (potential loss, uncertain future, or catastrophic event) to happen for people to want to search for and possess it. Sometimes we talk about hope interchangeably with faith, but they are very different. Faith is all about surrendering to the known (felt) but unseen. Faith takes belief and patience. Hope is about believing but it is not patient. Hope is about taking purposeful action to influence the future.

Hope suggests that the current situation does not need to be tolerated. It implies that by taking specific action-oriented steps, one can have some influence or control over future outcomes. Having hope means that we are not at the mercy of fate or this virus. For a control freak like me, this is great news!

As healthcare workers, we deal in hope. We are very busy influencing the future. Everything we do during our shift builds hope. From the minute we swipe in, to the minute we head home we are implementing evidence-based actions to influence our patient’s wellbeing and save lives. Sometimes the only action we can offer our patients is a peaceful death, which is everyone’s last great hope. A peaceful death is never a defeat.

So, keep feeding your hope:

  • Sleep when you can
  • Watch your carbohydrates so that you don’t gain your COVID-19 pounds
  • Stay positive. Find the little things to be grateful for because gratitude creates momentum and feeds hope
  • Stay away from the energy vampires (lives depend upon it)
  • Keep leaning into your purpose as a member of the healthcare legion of lightworkers
  • Envision the future. The time is right to promote the fact that access to affordable healthcare is a right and not a privilege.

Never forget, when the Universe created this blue planet, it asked the most courageous and generous souls to dedicate their life’s work to the care of its inhabitants. Your soul said yes, I can do this.

Blessings from your friend, colleague, and coach

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