From the April 29th edition of Hospice Matters
Marney Thompson, Director of Psychosocial Services, Victoria Hospice
When news of COVID-19 picked up and calls for social distancing were made, we all sprinted out of the gate. Rules were implemented, the news was changing every day, and we all ran as fast as we could to keep up.
What started out as a sprint, is now feeling more like a long run. For many of us, the weeks turn into months and our mental and emotional ‘muscles’ are starting to ache and our bodies are feeling fatigued.
As I watch and listen to what we are going through during this pandemic, I am reflecting on how, in some ways, this is a kind of grief process. The precautions and restrictions that accompany this pandemic have forced us all onto a steep learning curve.
Initially, many of us struggled with our own disbelief and shock about what was happening, and even so, we quickly made the necessary adjustments to maintain safety. As we come to understand this will go on longer than we imagined, in our own ways, we are accepting and adapting to this new reality. I’m not sure if or when this will feel like our ‘new normal’ but I see us all grappling with it, creating new ways to continue to hold patients and families at the centre of our intention; doing our very best to care for them, but also to care for each other, our families, and ourselves.
We are reaching out to support each other in news ways, virtually through social media and the internet and through community-wide offerings of connection and appreciation. Some of us have made new connections with healthcare providers in other cities and countries, finding these new bonds help us to remain hopeful and/or to make sense of this challenging time. Smile buttons and virtual hugs remind us of who we are and why we’re here.
Still, I am aware that this ‘sudden sprint’ and new work of it all, may lead to occupational stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue. I’m hearing from our team and healthcare providers across the country how hard it is to know that some patients and families are really struggling with the isolation and sometimes not receiving needed care and support. In a way this moral distress is a part of the “sore muscles” we are experiencing now and part of our angst when we sense that there is still some distance to go.
As we continue to adapt and learn how to live and work through this time, here are some tips that may be helpful:
- Reflect on what matters most, and then identify ways that you can still attend to these areas
- Don’t take it on alone, look to your teammates for help in making hard decisions
- Think creatively when facing issues and problems, if ever there was a time for ‘outside of the box’ thinking, this is it
- Be compassionate (with yourself and each other), we’re building the bridge as we cross it, it’s natural to feel unsure and to get it wrong sometimes
- Take breaks, notice when you need rest, give yourself the same care and attention you would a cherished colleague or family member
We don’t yet know if this is a long run or a marathon, pace yourselves.