The global outbreak of Covid-19 has led to the postponement of many events to celebrate the International year of the Nurse and Midwife, and Florence Nightingales bicentenary. Nevertheless, this has not dimmed the light on these professions but merely brightened it. There is a time for work and play, and our time to commemorate will come but for now these professions like many others are rolling up their sleeves and answering the call for help. In doing so, nurses and midwives are doing what they do every day, providing compassion, care and commitment to all, albeit in more precarious conditions. It is these values that act as a compass, directing their efforts and actions, both past, present and future.
Our commitment in Ireland has never been more evident as thousands of healthcare staff have rejoined or returned to the workforce again. I am reminded that once a nurse always a nurse, or a midwife whatever the case may be, although some are lucky to wear both caps. The crisis has also reminded the world that it is often staff on the ground like nurses and midwives who have many of the solutions to the issues that arise within healthcare. We have seen the demand for masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment rise exponentially. One simple idea to a big problem that I thought was ingenious, was the call by nurses from a variety of hospitals around Ireland and the world, for the donation of baby monitors. The use of these two way monitors can aid communication and assessment of patients in isolation while reducing exposure and the number of times protective equipment need to be reapplied. It reminded me of the time my Grandad Jack was ill. My aunt who is also a nurse and midwife used a baby monitor as an aid to care for her Dad at night. A clever fix that gave ease of mind, just like the monitors to be used in the hospitals will. It’s a great example of the creativity and innovation of nursing staff.
Often it can be easy to become weighed down by all the bad news, but stories like this inspire and give hope, which is vital at times like this. It is one of the many things nurses and midwives are really good at, as they provide comfort and care in the most difficult of times. They also always maintain the focus on patients and families. For example, one Irish hospital has launched a free virtual visiting service that allows parents to see their babies who are in neonatal intensive care. It’s not ideal, but goes some way to help overcome current visiting restrictions and demonstrates the compassion of all the staff involved in the project.
Moreover, all over the world in a variety of roles and contexts, nurses and midwives are making vital contributions, which we can appreciate. Some are caring for loved ones at home, and like many carer’s and community organizations, they are providing much needed support and assistance to vulnerable members of society. Nursing leaders have also stepped up by organizing teams and supports, and making plans, for both acute and community services, in unprecedented times where there are no guide maps to follow. They have advocated for both staff and patients along the way, and educated and guided the public. Universities and Schools of Nursing and Midwifery have also played a part. Many institutes in Ireland have become involved in establishing call centers for contact tracing and facilitating the setup of community assessment units. Many schools have also rallied to provide and develop educational direction and resources that are both responsive and timely.
All the while, although altered, life still goes on, babies are being delivered, lifesaving treatments administered, and kindness and compassion are given as loved ones sadly, take their final breaths. From the cradle to the grave, we are present, we are there. In times of crisis, one’s values become more evident and it is bittersweet and poignant that in 2020, the values of nurses and midwives have been illuminated, but not in the manner in which we could have foreseen or wished for. Nevertheless, nurses and midwives will continue to lead the way, like they always have and that’s something we can be proud of.
Author: Deirdre Brennan