I am so proud of all of you. You have applied yourself to everything that is new. You have patiently listened as we explain protocol after protocol, and then frustrated you by changing it the next day. I am proud of how you showed care to my 99-year-old patient whose hair is perfectly coiffed and her makeup is ready for a BBC interview.
Like you I don’t know what day it is. I need to check a calendar to see if it’s a working day or a weekend. Not that it makes any difference to you, working shifts and three-day weekends every second weekend.
I try, and yet I fail to talk to you in the corridors and in the nurses stations and in your offices in management suite.
I failed to act ten days ago when someone asked me to write something motivational for you. This is a time when failure is commonplace: the only solution is to acknowledge it, learn from it and move on. With this letter I hope to move on.
We are facing a global crisis in our little hospital that has always served our community to the best of our ability. It seems sometimes that nothing we do is enough for our patients, our hospital, the whole world. But we have not failed!
The sense of failure, the fear of not being in control, the quarantine, the concern for our families causes us all to feel anxiety.
Feeling anxious about things in today’s world is completely normal. Although I am no master, I’d like to share with you how I have learnt to deal with my anxiety over the years and what works for me now:
We need to deal with it. Learn from our failures. Consolidate and move in a new direction with calm and strength and compassion. I believe we all, and especially you, have this ability.
In our medical training and our experience at the workplace over the years we have all faced stressful moments: a patient’s death, a complication, a disagreement with a colleague. Think back to those times. Now empower yourself by reminding yourself that you dealt with those crises before, and you have the tools to deal with this crisis. You have achieved so much, and will continue to achieve.
Over the last decade I have been blessed to meet many wise and caring people who have helped me deal with fear and anxiety. The essence of their help for me can be distilled into three words:
Remember to breathe (even if it is behind a suffocating mask).
Breathing is the essence of life, and we can control it. In the beginning just acknowledging your breath is enough. Start to feel the place where your inbreath gently fades into your outbreath. Feel your diaphragm move. If you want you can pause, and count to four at the end of each breath.
It is as simple as that. Now you have something you can control. In controlling that you can reduce your fear and anxiety.
I salute you all. For once the world is recognising your calling. They are appreciating your service for the greater good of humanity. They understand your sacrifice.
Ask for help if you need it.