I don’t usually have writer’s block, typically the words seem to flow without too much struggle. But this time was different. When I attempted to write a review of 2020, I sat staring at a blank screen for what felt like days. My original intent was to write what came into focus in 2020, a play on perfect vision. What I have come to realize is that my struggle for words is because nothing is clear, in fact, it is has been a blurry year. Now that I have solved the root cause of my loss for words to explain the year like none other, the thoughts are flowing again, through an unfocused lens.
When I reflect on 2020, the words fear and uncertainty float to the top of the list to describe living through a global pandemic. What started out with so much excitement and promise as we settled into celebrating “2020: The Year of the Nurse and Midwife,” quickly dissolved into a global health emergency. Glaringly apparent in our country is the lack of a national response that led us down a path of unimaginable loss and suffering. We continue to feel the ramifications of disregarded public health messaging as each holiday passes and COVID19 surges soon follow.
A glimmer of hope in the form of several promising vaccines gives us a sense that help is on the way. But hope is not a public health mitigation strategy. Wearing a mask, not sharing your air with people, and washing your hands improves your chances of not getting infected or infecting others. Choosing to take the vaccine when it becomes available to you is a strategy.
When we left school on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, the message was that we would return on March 30th. Nine months later my school district continues to be remote with the hope of returning in February 2021. Even that may be an unreachable goal as we see COVID continue to escalate in the city where I work. Vaccines will help the school staff and parents feel safer, so let’s hope that we can have access sooner than later.
What did come into focus in 2020 is that nurses are leading the response to the pandemic. Our presence is seen and heard through the expanded use of social media. Nurses are speaking truth to power, even if some need to remain anonymous for fear of workplace retribution. We are standing strong and no longer tolerating the intolerable. I see school nurses from across the country reaching out to each other in ways that were not common prior to 2020. Zoom has become a verb, a tool that has allowed us to be in connection during the most challenging times I can remember.
Looking forward to the possibilities that 2021 holds gives me a sense of inspiration that new beginnings promise. I anticipate that the connections forged through the pandemic will continue to grow as we move through this new year. The presence of nursing as a powerful force for educating the public on the importance of vaccination participation will be a game-changer in 2021. Here is to a healthy safe 2021 and let it be the year that we put COVID19 in our rear-view mirror. Until then though, make a vaccine plan, wear a mask, wash your hands, and don’t share your air with anyone who does not live with you.