“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” This was the sage advice that, as a child, Mr. Roger’s got from his mother when he was troubled by scary things in the new. In today’s troubling times, looking for the helpers can be inspiring and have a balancing effect on the constant stream of fear evoked by the media.
Looking at what the helpers are doing, taking the time to search out their stories and internalizing their courage, dedication and the positive impact they are having can bring some relief from all the bad news and help shape how we experience difficult times. But what really inspires me about these potent words of wisdom is that they shine a light on the helpers. We are reminded to give them some attention.
Occasionally they make the headlines. More often than not you have to look harder to find them. The effort is well worth it when you uncover the good that is happening all around us. It is in these stories that our understanding expands, our perceptions deepen and our appreciation blossoms. You begin to embrace the truth, that the helpers are who get us through every natural disaster, catastrophe, tragedy, war, and every hard thing that life can offer up.
Whatever the triggering event, in every case, there they are, the helpers. They are always there. The people who run toward, not away from scary things or from danger to help others. It does not mean they don’t experience fear, it means that something more powerful than fear is present in them. Nurses, doctors and firefighters are well known among this group. They chose a profession that puts them at the center of really hard stuff all the time. Most would say, for them it is a “calling” to be of service to people, to communities, to humanity.
During this worldwide public health crisis, for those on the front lines and those making the work on the front lines possible, their commitment to service is being challenged in every possible way with lack of supplies, overwhelmed systems and policies that are constantly changing. And yet they keep going. On top of all they are facing, many are pushing themselves past exhaustion, sacrificing much needed attention to themselves and to their loved ones. In many cases, even self-isolating from their families to reduce the risk of causing them harm through the very real potential of transmission that permeates their clothing, their hair, their watches and wedding rings.
On the rare occasion that we get a glimpse into their self-less service, for a moment appreciation surges through us. Less so on big news networks, their stories show up more often in social media, often posted by friends or family. Like the picture of a nurse who pitched a tent in his garage, resting on the ground, trying to recover for the next shift while sacrificing his own comfort while trying to keep his family safe. Or the picture of an airplane packed full of nurses holding up their hands in the shape of a heart and smiling, as they head to the epicenter of the pandemic to help. Or the kids who post a picture of their mom with sores on her face from the masks, sharing how proud they are. These are wonderful stories of inspiration.
When seeing these pictures or uncovering stories about our heroes during this crisis, I have noticed that they are primarily about either doctors or nurses. Yes, these are our heroes. They deserve all the support, recognition and gratitude we can muster.
But there are more heroes throughout healthcare whom we hear little about facing many of the same or similar risks, making the same sacrifices, who also deserve our recognition and our deepest appreciation. The team in central supply making sure that those on the frontlines have the supplies and equipment needed to care for patients. The dietitians and food servers who under extremely complex circumstances make nutrition available. The environmental services teams who have the almost impossible job of cleaning every nook and cranny where the COVID-19 virus might be hiding. The overwhelming demand on lab technicians, respiratory therapists, radiology technicians, pharmacists and pharmacy techs, transporters, those in infection control, discharge planners, maintenance staff, the admission teams, the LVN/LPNs and CNAs, our EMTs and ambulance drivers, even the healthcare students helping in any way they can. And let’s not forget how hard it is to be a manager of a team right now or the leaders who are rallying resources, finding work-around and making really tough decisions. Many are rolling up their sleeves and working right alongside the rest of the team.
These are the heroes the doctors and nurses as well as the ones we don’t hear much about, all of them, working together to save lives, to lead the way so that we get through to the other side. All of them leaders. Let’s search out and share their stories, so that we have a more informed understanding of what is happening, so that we can find ways to recognized and thank all the helpers that Mr. Roger’s mom was talking about.
About the Author
Kathy Douglas, RN, MPH-HA
Kathy is a nationally recognized nurse leader, entrepreneur, author and award-winning filmmaker. She has been on the executive team of several healthcare start-up companies. She is the author of numerous published articles on the healthcare workforce. Kathy wrote and directed the film, NURSES If Florence Could See US Now, an intimate look into the world of nursing today. Her passion over the last decade has been focused on the health and well-being of our healthcare workforce. She is co-author of the book The Dance of Caring – A Caregivers Guide to Harmony and is active in promoting self-care among caregivers. She was recognized by AACN with their Pioneering Spirit Award and featured on the cover of Nurse Leader magazine, as a leader to honor.