From a personal perspective, being a nurse through the COVID-19 global pandemic is a once in a lifetime experience; from a nurse’s perspective, it is both a unique and frightening time.
There was no dress rehearsal and little warning – especially for those already working long hours with no time to catch up the very latest news.
I was vaguely aware of what was happening in Wuhan-China as I was rolling my eyes at the repeated soundbites about ‘getting Brexit done’. Dashing between work, parenting and caring for my own parents I had little time to concentrate on the daily broadcasts, but there was something about this Wuhan situation that sparked my attention. Maybe that’s just the nurse in me!
The advice and guidance started to be disseminated by the government. It was passed to the city’s councils and health officials, ensuring its boroughs and towns were working hard to prepare for the unknown. Granted, they did have some working knowledge about the virus – they knew for example that, whilst it held no real prejudice, the nation’s vulnerable would still need shielding. We knew how it spread and which measures could minimise infection; procedures like hand washing, social distancing, leaving home only for essentials and, of course, isolation.
Humankind coming together is humankind at its best.
We then watched countries close down one by one as lockdown was enforced. Everyone was permitted to head home to shelter with their loved ones and to stay safe indoors.
But not me, because I am a nurse.
As I enter in to yet another period of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ (Jeffers 1987), thousands of retired nurses have been returning to the register to equip Britain for this fast-developing crisis. Amidst both mass panic and collective calm, we are living in a world where hospitals are built in a week, car manufacturers are building respirators instead Rolls Royces and top-end fashion designers like Burberry make protective wear for frontline staff.
It’s said that “one trier to do the right thing is better than ten lookers on” and that’s certainly true in nursing and leadership when working through a pandemic. One moment you have a plan and the next moment it means nothing. Every single situation is still evolving by the hour.. This is a global emergency where people come together and push the boundaries of their skillset for common goals: “protection of life”, “flattening the curve”, “reducing the pressure on our NHS” and “saving lives”.
Humankind coming together is humankind at its best. Almost everyone will have their hour of need as we continue to fight this invisible enemy and nurses are rising as the new heroes, working so effectively whilst their backs are against the wall.
My name appears on the register which holds the names of some of the most selfless and compassionate people in the world. I am proud to be a nurse and so incredibly proud of my frontline colleagues as we all face this challenge together.