A lot has been said about the “unprecedented” nature of the Covid-19 pandemic and of its impact on health care.
An Emergency Department perspective on Covid however is perhaps a little more nuanced. While the scale of the pandemic was certainly unprecedented for EDs across the world, the scope of Covid-19 wasn’t. Emergency Departments have regularly dealt with and / or prepared for viral outbreaks – influenza, SARS-Cov-1, Ebola among others.
To me, what is truly unprecedented in both scale and scope is the impact of the cyber attack on the HSE. Never before would we have imagined shutting down an entire network of computers across a national health care system.
As we move into week 2 of the shutdown, this is my perception of its effects on departmental energy levels.
Social energies are up. Replacing emails with actual conversations and a sense of coming together in a crisis are boosting connections.
Intellectual energies are recovering. From an initial feeling of “cerebral nakedness” – not having access to patient records, previous reports, test results or online clinical references – to finding work arounds and coming back to good old fashioned clinical medicine.
Physically, people are tired. This is a labor intensive environment – there is no getting around it. For now at least.
Psychological safety has taken a big hit. The timing of the cyber attack – just as Ireland was coming out of a lockdown that stretched since December – could hardly have been worse. National activity is rising, accidents and emergencies are rising in tandem, Covid measures are still in place – all while the ability of the ED to respond to this surge has been dramatically reduced.
Why am I writing about any of this ? Partly to keep my own note of these events. And partly to explore – how should I / do I respond ? Is my inability to gauge the spiritual energy level of the department a reflection of current conditions – or of me ?
Academics and researchers have written much about resilience. Yet for me, what a world wise friend shared this week is what resonates. Resilience is simply surviving. Surviving 15 months on the frontline facing Covid, surviving this cyber attack, surviving what else may come and doing so with spiritual strength. A spiritual strength that comes from remembering – these conditions too are impermanent.
So coming back to the root question of this reflection – what compassionate wise action can my best self bring to this situation ? I am reminded of a story from Thich Nhat Hanh and the answer emerges – presence and solidity.
“When the crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive.”