Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic: Changes to the meaning of our experiences based on Newman’s theory of health as expanding consciousness (HEC)

Report from the Newman Theory/Research/Practice Society (a Japanese Nonprofit Organization)

Contributors: Emiko Endo,
Satoko Imaizumi, Minako Kakimoto,
Yayoi Kajiwara, Yoshie Kamiya

We are pleased to write our blog about the 2020 work of the Newman Theory/Research/Practice Society in Japan. We submitted a brief about our Society on January 10, 2019 (scroll down here to see this brief) followed by more detail from Dr. Margaret Pharris, who introduced our society and work on December 17, 2019.

We had the last pre-praxis research course of HEC for 2019 virtually on August 2, 2020, because the COVID-19 pandemic. We read the last chapter, “A transforming arc”, and Appendix A, “HEC Praxis: The process of pattern recognition” in Newman’s “Transforming presence: The difference that nursing makes.” After that, Emiko Endo, as a leader of this course, introduced the blog by Drs. Jones and Flanagan, “COVID-19 – What would Margaret Newman say?”(June 30, 2020) In listening to it, our comprehension expanded, and we feel enlightened, and awakened in new ways.

There is an increased awareness within selves, our nursing care, and our society. No, we will never get back to normal. We will certainly move on in “Satori.” On an annual event of the Study meeting held by zooming on November 22, 2020, three practicing nurses presented their experiences of turbulence and disruption, and then recognition of the changes to the meaning of their experiences in the COVID-19 pandemic. The following are the summaries of each presentation.

Minako Kakimoto

In February, the spread of COVID-19 started in Asian areas, but I was looking at that situation as no concern of ours, and I thought it would disappear sooner or later like SARS and MARS. However, soon after being informed of the cases with COVID-19 in Japan, daily necessities, masks, alcohol, etc. disappeared from every store and the situations in hospital settings dramatically changed. The nurses, including me in a cancer hospital, had very hard time making temporal rules without any exact knowledge.

Soon after, we were informed that some positive cases were found at my hospital. I was on the list of medical staff exposed deeply to the COVID-19. “It finally came to us. We cannot overlook their distress as no concern of ours.” I felt strong fear. I had a test, and was afraid of the result. “If I am positive, what will happen to my family? If I and my husband are positive, how my child should be?” I imagined a dead body in a special bag and a crying child there. But, fortunately my test was negative.

After that, I was in charge of an outpatient clinic for the clients with fever. There were many difficulties because of a pickup setting. There were many inquiries and complaints from clients. The relationship among the staff became so bad because of a sense of unfairness, stress, overwork, etc. “How long does this chaotic situation last?

One day I spoke to my colleague about how to organize this disorder. Astonishingly, she said, “You told me some time ago that a transformation would occur after a chaos!” Her words made me come to my senses. “It is true. After the chaos, there is our growth.” I felt as if I had the scales fall from my eyes. I certainly grasped the meaning of “We will never get to back to normal” as Dr. Newman said.

I looked at the chaotic staff relationship from a different angle. “We do not need to get back to the normal. The confusion is not really bad, but it will bring forth. We do not need to endure the current difficult situation with many complaints until the typhoon has passed. Let’s find a new way to move on.” I approached my colleagues to exchange ideas about how to stand up. Of course, my change of actions prevailed into my family.

Yayoi Kajiwara

In the midst of the pandemic of COVID-19, my father, who had had a so-called incurable disease for a long time, died. As I learned a lot from my sad but meaningful experience, I would talk about it.

I, as a hospital nurse, had asked patients’ families to put restrictions on visiting their loved ones to prevent bringing COVID-19 virus into the hospital. However, the situation has reversed. I was not allowed to visit my father. I was so afraid of not being able to meet his death. When I had been a nurse at the palliative care unit, I valued a patient’s death surrounded with his or her family members before everything else. But, I thought it might be impossible for me to be present with my father.

I wondered why my father was on the brink of death in the midst of the pandemic of COVID-19 ? “If I cannot be present at my father’s death, what does it mean? My father may be telling me something important to get a new meaning in my experience. He may be telling me that the length of the time is not so important. The importance is to be present with the patient.”

When my father ran into a critical condition, I was finally allowed to see him. I could be present with him for a while with all my heart. My father did die after several days from good-bye with my aching heart. However, in spite of his death, the relationship between him and me has changed through the process of our hard experience in the pandemic. Our relationship came closer than ever, and we became deeply united in spirit.

From this experience, I realized that I had been captured by the “good dying moments” which nurses think. I surely comprehended the meaning of “Transforming presence” in terms of HEC. That is, being present together brings the transformation to both. I realized the true meaning of “Vulnerability, suffering, disease, death do not diminish us” which Dr. Newman emphasized.

I am very thankful to my father, and the lesson on the COVID-19 pandemic will help me better care for clients in our community.

Yoshie Kamiya

I am a nurse in charge of an outpatient clinic at a university hospital. The COVID-19 pandemic brought me so many difficulties and at the same time many lessons.

We, nurses, were distributed one mask for several days and one raincoat bought at a $1.00 shop. At an information desk, I received a lot of phone calls, claims, and complaints from clients because of the lack of information and fear. The staff’s fear and offensive attitudes were also increasing, and some co-workers could not show up because of their children’s care at home. I was full of fear and exhaustion as I could not know how things would turn out.

In those days, I participated in the last class of the pre-praxis study course and we read the blog by Drs. Jones and Flanagan. I vividly remember the shock I felt after reading the blog. “I feel very relieved.” I thought, “What we need to do is not to go back, but to move on even in the process of confusion.” I thought, “Now is a pinch point, but it is not, really. Now is a chance.” Then, I looked back the past experiences and tried to get a new meaning from them. I will tell you about my change.

As the charge nurse at an out-patient clinic, I was always thinking, “I should take a determined attitude,” “I should not make mistakes,” “I should not be afraid of COVID-19,” “I should meet patients with fever by myself.” One day, when I was working the information desk, I spoke with a patient who turned out to be COVID-19 positive. When I was informed of this fact, I was afraid. Moreover, I felt so sorry for my family. However, I did not tell anyone, not even my family, though I was so worried about my contagion.

Finally, COVID-19 had invaded into our hospital. Some nurses were on a watch list for the virus. One day, one nurse came to me and told me, “I feel very afraid, and I feel very sorry for my family.” She told her feeling openly. At this time, I was startled and recognized my pattern. I realized that I was not honest. I piled up “should do” every day.

The pattern recognition, which is the most important concept in HEC, helped me realize my situation. Since then, I tried to be open and to tell what I am thinking and feeling to people. Especially, I tried to be honest and open with the staff. I realize now that our relationship is changing and expanding. This is one of the great lessons to me during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is another one. At the out-patient clinic, we started to receive clients’ words of appreciation. I can accept their thanks honestly and my relationship with clients became more genuine. This is the other lesson from the pandemic. Thank you for listening to me.

All participants were deeply touched by their presentations. “Yes, we will move on!!!” We will continue to search for ‘caring in the human health experience’ during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One thought on “Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic: Changes to the meaning of our experiences based on Newman’s theory of health as expanding consciousness (HEC)

  1. To our colleagues in Japan,
    Thank you for posting this blog. Such profound stories – I am grateful to you for sharing them with us. This is a time of great sadness and chaos as you each so eloquently described. Recognizing our collective experiences and potential for opportunities as we move through this provides great hope for us all. Be well, stay safe and let’s keep connecting.
    My best to you all –


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