I have joined a group of fellow educators this week to participate in a daily writing challenge. Today’s 500 word challenge struck a chord with me, following my conversations last night as I joined my community for the second week to clap for our NHS workers and other carers.
The word we were encouraged to blog about today is ‘Adventure’.
An adventure is often defined as exciting, involving an element of risk and unknown outcomes. When we hear the word, we think of adventure stories and films, in which the heroes and other characters undergo challenges, often making a journey of self-discovery as they do so and, almost always, working through difficulties and risky situations to positive endings.
I do not think that any of us could have anticipated what our NHS workers are currently up against, and we certainly would not glibly define their vocation as an adventure during this COVID-19 crisis. But there are similarities: every day these workers are most certainly at risk, their daily outcomes are most certainly unknown and they are embracing their roles with courage, stoicism and grace.
Yesterday, the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Dame Donna Kinnair, spoke out on behalf of thousands of nurses who felt that NHS staff were being let down and put at great risk by the lack of personal protective equipment for nursing staff, including those in hospitals, GP surgeries, care homes and hospices, as well as community nurses visiting people in their homes. In a letter to the Health and Safety Executive, she called the situation ‘unconscionable’ and called upon the HSE to intervene.
My sister has been in despair for weeks; she is a District Nurse Team Leader and a National Clinical Lead for Nursing and has been deeply concerned about how ill-equipped her district nurses have been on a daily basis. She has been handing out insubstantial face masks to her team – one mask per nurse per day – and felt this was an insult to their professionalism as they continued to put their own safety and wellbeing at risk for the greater good. We now hear that, at last, teams of NHS workers will become protected and will be able to fulfil their roles without the fear of becoming infected themselves or infecting a vulnerable person. NHS worker testing is another dilemma which we hope to see resolved soon.
Late last night I checked in on another friend, who is currently working 12 hour shifts at a London hospital as an Intensive Care Unit nurse. Her world, and that of all of her colleagues, has been turned on its head. She is drained, exhausted and anxious, but is coping with her anxiety admirably and has documented her experiences in a blog – her way of dealing with the reality of the situation.
Schools are doing their bit by remaining open over the Easter holiday to look after the children of key workers. We are grateful to be able to help our key worker parents in this way, who are crucial to supporting this crisis and we thank all of our parents for playing your part, in critical key worker roles, as NHS and other volunteers, as supportive members of your local and wider community and, by no means least, in supporting your children and wider family during these challenging times.
The young children we have in school at the moment may regard having the school to themselves as a bit of an ‘adventure’ too – there are very few of them with us, and the school must seem strange and empty to them without their friends around them. Luckily, our amazing staff see it as an adventure too and are helping to fill those children’s days with love and structure. Our children most likely cannot understand the enormity of the crisis that we find ourselves in as they live through it. I hope that, one day in the future, they will read blogs and listen to stories from parents and others who are on the front line at the moment.
We will get through this moment in our history, and perhaps one day we will be able to see it as one of the great ‘adventures’ of our lives, in the strictest of senses – not a fictional story but a very real time of the unknown; a time of the unthinkable, but a time during which we all found great courage and self-awareness, and during which we cemented our roles in our families, communities and society as a whole.
Thinking of you all; stay safe, stay connected, stay strong.