In my experience as a nurse, I somehow was always at home when a snowstorm and hurricane hit. But I was thinking about uncertainty and will share part of my childhood experience.
I grew up the child of a single mother, a soldier in the Army. When I was 8 years old, we lived in Germany before the Berlin wall came down. I knew we lived near a militarized zone, I knew I cold be separated from my mother at any time. I walked to my babysitter’s house every morning before school, and home every evening after school with my sister who was six. Our babysitter gave us a corner of one room where we could keep our emergency rations in case we could not make it home or in case my mother was on duty. Once a week we checked the supplies which consisted of a large collapsible water container and two weeks worth of MRE’s or “meals ready to eat”. We counted them to make sure they were all there. We inspected the outer packages. We practiced filling the water container and carrying it’s heaviness. My mother introduced us to the MRE’s when we were very young by making them a treat. She opened one MRE and showed us the contents, but did not allow us to eat them. They were promoted as something fun and special, and we couldn’t wait for the day we could open the little packets of dehydrated food inside. Before we ever had to use them, she associated them with something positive. I don’t know what MRE’s taste like today, but forty years ago they were awful. But my mother knew how vulnerable we were and was able to make the entire experience a win for us.
This pandemic is going to test us, and our challenge will be to find and celebrate the wins, and we may have to wait awhile to do that.
Nurses as a profession do not like to be vulnerable. We like to be proactive in calling the physician, resourceful in obtaining and hoarding supplies, and vigilant in advocating for the patient. This pandemic will test our vulnerability, our creativity and our resourcefulness and we need to be aware of that. What this pandemic does not change is the nursing process. It does not change a nurse’s ability to calm a patients fears or educate a patient. A pandemic does not change a nurse’s ability to assess a change in condition or advocate for the patient. One thing being affected right now is our certainty. Our certainty that we will have enough supplies, enough medication, enough beds. Our certainty that we are healthy and will not carry the virus to our family. These are things we cannot control but we can be certain in our professional abilities. When supplies become scarce, we will improvise new uses for old things. When beds are filled, new beds will be created. When protocols are no longer relevant, we will create new protocols. When patients need care, we will find a way to provide it. We will look back on this and find our wins.