We are privileged as nurses to have a birds’ eye view of some of the most intimate moments of people’s lives. We are there at the beginning and end of life, bearing witness to the joys and pains families experience. It strikes us as just part of our job most of the time, helping mothers on their journey of bringing life into the world in a labor and delivery unit or caring for babies that need critical care in our neonatal intensive care units. During this time however, it feels different. It feels harder. Some days, it feels like we bear the weight of the world on our shoulders..
Some hospitals around the country have strict visitation guidelines which have changed birth plans and forced families to be apart when being together has been a vital part of the vision for most mothers. I (Faraz) know firsthand, experiencing pregnancy during this time, that the nurses, nurse practitioners, midwives and doctors have been my support system when I go to the clinic for the ultrasounds that my husband now can’t attend. And for me (Darcy Mahoney), I can see it in the eyes of patients giving birth via c-section and having a baby going into the neonatal intensive care unit. I see how grateful they are when I tell them their baby is doing alright and I promise that I will take care of them, providing photo and video updates along the way. I promise to report back right away as soon as our premature infants–sometimes gravely ill babies–are settled in and on the road to recovery. Our team of nurses, nurse practitioners and doctors do our very best to be there on behalf of families, but we are not the families.
Taking care of mothers, babies and children during this time reminds us that life will go on and new life is still happening. However, it can be heart-wrenching and challenging. We rely on all the many skills that we learned in nursing school to be expert, empathetic, caring and thoughtful clinicians, and to provide equitable care to all. These are challenging times and circumstances, defining how we as a health care providers care for patients. This care goes beyond just that of the physical body, to care of the whole person–cura personalis–care of all parts of them, and that’s what we’re doing right now.
New life in the midst of a pandemic means extending our care delivery beyond the bedside to virtual formats; moving the type of compassion that we can often get across in the touch of a mother’s shoulder to somehow getting that same compassion across on the phone, via video or in any way that makes parents feel that we are doing our very best; that we are providing the same care we would for our own children. During this time, nursing new life during a pandemic seems like it would be the most joyful job–and most of the time it is–but it is also more challenging than anticipated. This Nurses’ Week, we urge nurses to take some time to reflect on the important role they play in some of the most important moments of patients’ lives, and to take time for self-care. For it is by filling our own cups first that we can fill the cup of others, providing the care that we have taken an oath to provide as nurses.
-Ashley Darcy-Mahoney, PhD, NNP-BC, FAAN, Community of Practice Member and Asefeh Faraz Covelli, PhD, APRN, FNP-BC
Dr. Ashley Darcy-Mahoney is a neonatal nurse practitioner and researcher, has worked throughout her career to advance nursing research, education and practice, with a focus on neonatology, infant health and developmental pediatrics. Her research has led to the creation of programs that improve health and developmental outcomes for at-risk and preterm infants.
Dr. Asefeh Faraz Covelli is an Assistant Professor in the Family Nurse Practitioner program at The George Washington University School of Nursing. Dr. Faraz is a health care workforce researcher interested in nurse practitioner workforce issues, with particular emphasis on the novice nurse practitioner workforce transition into primary care. She is also interested in alternative workforce solutions to improve patient access to primary preventive care. Dr. Faraz maintains her clinical practice as a Family Nurse Practitioner.