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COVID-19 is showing us that we are not above nature, but are part of it. We hear about nurses caring for others, providing care and needing to practise self-care. In this new era of human interconnection, what is care/caring? As nurses, how do we help to redefine it?
The world is now challenged and frightened by this virus. Today, less than three months after initial cases reported in Wuhan, China, this virus has spread worldwide and new cases are added daily.
The stock market is crashing, companies are closing their doors, layoffs and furloughs are rampant, hoarding of food and other products is evident, states of emergency are being declared and a deep and debilitating fear of death is beginning to permeate humankind.
We know that as modern nurses we can alter our own perspectives and imagine how this seeming threat to our very survival also offers possible solutions and means for preventing such outbreaks in the future and perhaps even alter our definition of health and caring.
The ability of a tiny, microscopic entity to create such havoc among humans clearly demonstrates how everything in nature is integrally connected. At this point in our development, so are people. This realisation is life-changing because we begin to comprehend how the egoistic actions of humans are deeply disturbing the whole of nature.
Robust health, both within our bodies and within the system of nature, is supported by maintaining balance and harmony. We feel alarmed at the deaths so far from this microbe but, long before any strain of the coronavirus began infecting us, millions died of depression, obesity, lung cancer and other conditions brought on by unhealthy lifestyles.
World leaders and nation states are being pushed to suspend hostilities in order to collaborate on strategies for containing the virus. Even wars seem less likely, as assembling troops could spread infection. This is a monumentally important development. Imagine the implications of that – nations unite around fighting this disease instead of each other.
Health agencies worldwide are establishing guidelines for containment of Covid-19, thus literally forcing all of us to care for each other. Washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, and other such measures establish social responsibility, putting others ahead of self.
There is a dawning realisation that material acquisition cannot bring wellbeing. No amount of money or things can protect us from this virus (or hurricanes, tsunamis, or volcanoes). As we think about protecting our families, friends, and neighbours, we feel the inner peace and happiness that comes from human connection.
“In general, Covid-19 draws our attention to how much we are out of alignment with the inner and immutable laws of nature”
We are seeing a forced slowing-down of life as we know it in the 21st century as people travel less, stay home from school or work, avoid crowds and large events, and in general, pay more attention to only what is necessary for survival. Can this be all bad?
In general, Covid-19 draws our attention to how much we are out of alignment with the inner and immutable laws of nature – interdependence, altruism, balance and unity.
So how do we as a profession help with this re-alignment taking place among humanity now? What does our care look like? Perhaps you say it is no different than I have always practised nursing: I care, I give, I do my best.
However, have I ever entertained that my “I” is actually a “we”? That “I” am simply a small cogwheel in this great system called life and that “I” am also being pushed to connect to not only my patients in a new way but also my colleagues?
Since “we” as nurses comprise almost 50% of the global health workforce, we have a tremendous opportunity to do good and “care” for our world at this exact time.
It is not a coincidence that the World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 to be the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife in recognition of the contributions they make and the risks to humanity associated with nursing shortages.
We are much needed now, to do what we do best, to educate, but not only about how to hand wash, to cover coughs and sneezes, and to follow public health guidelines. But to model, teach, demonstrate what care is truly about – caring for another as you would yourself.
Connection in nature’s terms means to act with the primary thought of first doing good for others and for the whole system, the self comes last but still benefits from the action.
Nature is giving us a huge “time out” from our normal lives to reassess the true parameters of what health entails. There will be a certain amount of forced separation in order to curb the spread of a highly contagious virus.
But out of that, as we begin to experience less outward distractions, we can rediscover closeness in our families, care for our neighbours and the kindness of strangers. We are discovering the energising and healing power of meaningful connections.
As nurses, our entire education has focused on correct connections: between systems within the body; between the social networks of family and friends; between the environment and the world; and between the individual and their soul.
Now is the time for us to raise our awareness of the need for connection among ourselves in a correct and balanced manner so that we have the strengths and resources to serve the world.
Susan Morales-Kosinec, Mary Miesem, Linda Wooddell, Siv Andersen and Debra Hawrysko, Bnei Baruch.