2020 was the year . . .

Anyone alive today (except the yet unborn!) will forever relate a memorable end to this sentence . “2020 was the year . . . “! For a handful of humans all over the globe, there will be those who end this sentence with “2020 was the year I was born, and I survived the great pandemic.” Some will also add that someone in their family did not survive , or someone was permanently affected by the ravages of the virus – a fact that will follow them in all the years to come. Of course how we each end that sentence (and the paragraphs that follow that sentence) will change with time, but our nursology.net team members pitched in to share how we are remembering this unprecedented year as it comes to a close in this and in the first few posts of 2021.

Peggy Chinn

Dylan in his home “classroom”

2020 was the year that my 5-year old Cuban/Chinese/Hawaiian/Haole grandson Dylan started kindergarten in daily zoom “classes” with his 24 classmates and fortunately with a very talented kindergarten teacher! His parents and I reflect mournfully on what he is missing by not going to his physical school – a school they selected because it is a public dual-language (Spanish/English) immersion school. The school is located in a zip code with one of the highest rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the city Oakland CA, and where racial tensions between police and the community have escalated. But they are both public school teachers, deeply committed to social equity and to ending social disparities, and are seeking to be part of the solutions to the many challenges faced in disadvantaged communities. So here we are at the end of 2020, in the midst of so much suffering that could have been prevented if the situation had been managed differently – suffering that is tragically amplified in disadvantaged communities. Like public school teachers and so many other public servants, as nursologists, we know so many ways in which the knowledge of our discipline could re-direct and re-shape the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how our perspectives – our values and priorities as nursologists – could be mobilized to end health disparities. The growing response to Nursology.net over the course of the year suggests that 2020 may have been the year when widespread recognition and respect for the discipline took hold, when nurses all over the world began to see the significance of our disciplinary knowledge. Just as 5-year-old Dylan has learned the basics of reading and writing (in both Spanish and English) in the face of unprecedented circumstances, so too may it come to be recognized that nurses, in 2020, have learned anew the “reading and writing” fundamentals of our discipline.

Chloe Littzen-Brown

2020 was originally destined to be the year of the nurse and midwife, but it really turned out to be a year of uprising. A year of change and adaptation. A year of learning and unlearning. It was a year of putting action behind our thoughts and words, questioning what we know, and standing up for what’s right — even in the most difficult and darkest of times. We protested, marched, wrote letters, and voted. We began to question our role as nurses in the oppression and marginalization of patients and each other. In 2020, I am proud to call myself a nurse but I know that I, and we, still have a lot of work to do. I hope that we never lose the awareness that 2020 has given us and that we can carry it on to the future to better ourselves, better each other, and better the world. 

Chloe Littzen-Brown and Dr. Robert Brown with their two dogs Liberty and Timmy on their Wedding Day

On a personal note, 2020 has catapulted my private and professional life in many directions. In July, my partner graduated from his emergency medicine residency program after spending the previous 4 months straight caring for COVID-19 patients on the frontline during Ohio’s first wave. I won’t lie that I was (and still am) worried about his health and well-being on the frontlines. Simultaneously, he was (and is!) worried about bringing home COVID-19, as I have underlying health conditions that place me at heightened risk. It is not phased on me that many nurses, physicians, and other healthcare providers have lost their lives during the pandemic working on the frontlines. I am grateful that so far we have both maintained our health, and I hope that with a vaccine around the corner that soon we will be able to provide better protection to our frontline workers and the patients they care for.

Since he graduated my partner accepted a job in Washington state as a physician in the emergency room. Because of this, we ended up moving from Ohio to Washington in July. Prior to us moving, I submitted my IRB application for my dissertation, and to my surprise as we crossed the state line into Washington my application was approved! Since then, we got married (outdoor Zoom wedding!), I have completed my data collection, and currently I am diligently working on my data analysis. I hope to defend my dissertation, (probably over Zoom, note the theme here) in the Spring of 2021. But with all of this, I think what I have taken to heart is the only constant is change… and while that change may not have been what you wanted it to be, if you are willing, open, and present, change can have a positive impact in your life – greater than you ever imagined. I can honestly say if you had asked me where I would be five years ago, I would have given you a completely different answer. I am grateful for where I have ended up, but I am excited to see where 2021 takes me (and us).

Jacqui Fawcett

The year 2020 was my year of sustained close encounters o f the healthcare system kind. Although these encounters were not of the third kind, these were potential for encounters with those who could have been aliens to me. These encounters began on February 10th, when my husband, John, fell on ice outside our house in Maine.  I was at UMass Boston at a lunchtime seminar when I received a phone call from a stranger – a woman who was driving by our house and saw John on the ground. She stopped, called 911, and then called me. The local ambulance crew took John to the local hospital about 15 miles away.  An x-ray revealed he had a fracture of the proximal end of his left humerus. The orthopedic surgeon on call discussed options, and he and John decided on a closed reduction. So far, a seemingly reasonable decision, so to avoid surgery. 

I changed my flight reservation (I typically fly on Cape Air between Maine and Boston) to that evening and saw John at the hospital at about 9 PM. He was in some pain controlled by opioids. He was discharged home the next day with referral for home PT and OT, which were helpful.  I arranged for some grab bars to be installed in the house to ease John’s walking between our living quarters  (we have a  large house that also contains our toy museum) and the bathroom –excellent help from the across the road (we live on US Route !) hardware store staff.  PT and OT continued until February 20th when John’s pain became intense.  So, another call to 911, another trip to the local hospital, this time seen by a different orthopedic surgeon.  X-ray revealed that the closed reduction had failed.  Mutual decision to have surgery, especially when the MD told us that he “loves shoulders!”  Surgery on February 24th followed by OT and PT while still in hospital, until March 1, when John woke up at about 2 AM with intense pain, soon discovered to be a massive hematoma. Off to surgery that day (even though it was a Sunday). Finally to a skilled nursing facility at a very nice life care community for rehab on March 3rd until John finally came home on April 9th with referrals to home nursing (John experienced a 3 cm dehiscence of the surgical site, so dressing changes were needed) and PT.  I am very pleased to let you know that John has recovered almost completely now. The surgical site closed eventually, PT and home RN were not needed by about early May (the home health RN continued longer than I thought  necessary, as I can change surgical dressings!), and his arm has almost full mobility. He was finally discharged from orthopedic follow-up visits in September, so no more trips to his office. John now walks very hesitantly so as not to fall, which is a good thing, although difficult for me to witness. 

 My close encounters with the healthcare team members were much more positive than I would have expected. I did not even have to advocate for John, as his medical and nursing care were efficient, effective, and caring. The second orthopedic surgeon (I had not met the first one) included me in all discussions about John’s condition without my asking for this information, even calling me once when I was at work at UMass Boston. The PT and OT persons included me in their plans of care for John. The hospital and skilled nursing facility staff nurses were caring, expressed their concerns about John, and were receptive to my talking with them about nursology – I gave each one of them our nursology.net card, of course!

The most difficult aspect of the healthcare system encounters came on March 12th, when Covid-19 came to Maine, and I was no longer allowed to visit John at the skilled nursing facility. We tearfully said good night that evening, and I promised to call him every day at 5 PM.  John does not enjoy talking on the telephone, so I was surprised that he agreed to my calling him. Obviously, he needed contact with me. Indeed, when I occasionally called a few minutes after 5 PM, he expressed concern that I had had an accident. So, here we are in November 2020, with me at home in Maine all the time—UMass Boston has been doing remote teaching/learning since March 23rd (end of our spring break).  Although occupied by teaching and lots and lots of zoom meetings with colleagues – I think we may have invented extra meetings to maintain contact while not on campus together—and my usual writing projects,  the second half of spring semester and all of fall semester has seemed like a sabbatical – no commuting to work, more time for self-care,  less worry about the possibility of John falling when I am not at home. 2020 is not a year I would like to repeat but it has not been too challenging for me, for which I am forever grateful.  

Jane K. Dickinson

2020 was the year with no break.

I work in diabetes, and we often discuss how there is no break from diabetes. Even then, we find little ways to take “breaks” – have a family member help out; cut down on the number of daily fingersticks for a few days; carb out on a holiday; etc. I recently got an email from an organization that was announcing they are taking a break from December 19th to January 3rd. They are giving their entire staff this time to “rest and rejuvenate.” Reading this message really made me stop and think about how we all need a break. And how many nurses don’t get a break – from working on the front line exposed to health and human trauma, to literally not having time to eat a meal or go to the bathroom.

2020 was the year with no break from uncertainty. Often nurses work with people who are dealing with uncertainty and this year nurses had to deal with uncertainty in so many ways themselves – all the while helping their patients, students, staff, and family members handle the chaos that everyday life dealt us.

2020 was the year with no break from upheaval. Things were constantly changing – messages, scientific reports, numbers, job security – and yet we just kept going.

2020 was the year with no break from distraction and loss. The kids who are supposed to be at college came home. The kids who are supposed to be in elementary, middle, and high school, began homeschooling. Parents became teachers. Teachers became online instructors. People lost jobs and businesses and loved ones.

2020 was also the year with no break from accomplishment and innovation. Nonprofits and churches and schools got creative. Boards met virtually and made important decisions for their organizations. National and international conferences went online and delivered valuable content. Families and friends met through video conferencing – sometimes groups who hadn’t seen each other in a very long time! More and more nurses have become familiar with Nursology.net. They are accessing its abundant resources to further nursing knowledge to improve nursing education, research, and practice and ultimately the human health experience.

My wish for 2021 is that all nurses get some sort of break to rest and renew, and know that our work is vital to humankind. Happy New Year!

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