Our beautiful Society and Community editor Beth speaks about the profound role the NHS are playing in this time of crisis…
It’s a strange thing to not be allowed to interact with people. You begin to learn the weight that a smile from a stranger can carry. More often than not these days, my good days have been indexed by smiles. The kind of smiles that recognise the downright bizarre situation we’re all in. You know the type: eyebrows raised, head cocked, the ‘can you believe it’ giggle. I’ve been finding these smiles to provide a sense of comfort. Solidarity maybe. The rules of social distancing however, have also seen the onset of some bad days. Not least, days that begin with someone on the street staring you in the eye and slowly backing away (needless to say, no smile).
Amidst the whirlwind of the last few weeks, I have continually oscillated between emotions. I’m pretty sure the entire world has. At times I have felt so warm and grateful for the people around me; eternally lucky to be in a safe and happy house. At others, I have felt alone and dizzy with anxious confusion. But last night, head out of the window and arms flailing around in applause, I felt a real sense of hope as people came together in celebration for the WONDER that is the NHS.
For the past three Thursdays, people around the country have stepped, hung and danced out of their houses to show their appreciation for the NHS. And damn right, too! In the face of worry and fear, health and social care staff have continued to gracefully support, and often save, those suffering with covid-19. My main reason for writing these thoughts down then, is to say thank you; to dedicate a few words of genuine appreciation for the people working in our national health service.
One of these wonderful people is my mum; someone who teaches me daily what it is to be a powerful woman. Power, she has always taught me, is compassion and care. Speaking to my mum over the past few weeks has made me realise how these values root our health and care system. “Going into work is like going home to a massive extended family”, she told me. “There is such a sense of community being generated as people gather together to help control this virus”.
The days of covid-19 have seen an influx of staff swarming to the NHS: not-yet-graduated nurses, long retired doctors, volunteers from the community with no prior healthcare experience. For existing NHS and social care staff, work has not simply meant a continuation of the everyday. Rather, the jobs of all staff have had to adjust in a matter of days to cope with the evolving reality of the virus. Nurses working in community roles have offered their services to staff in critical care units, whilst others have assisted in hospices. Groups of staff have taken on work as carers as other groups have depleted due to self-isolation and illness. The virus has affected the entire system and staff have responded by rapidly learning new skills to support the efforts of their colleagues. The physical and emotional resilience required by this work cannot be underestimated. Though extremely rewarding, it is exhausting and often traumatic.
At a time when the remainder of the population have been asked to stay home to protect themselves and others from danger, NHS staff, care workers and key workers have confronted this danger head on. A sense of both duty and determination towards the care of others has overwritten personal concern and safety. In moments where I have caught myself gloomy about the required absence of a tangible community around me, I have found inspiration in reflecting on how these people have come together, for all of us.
Last night, applauds and pot-pan-tambourine noises animated the streets to say thank you to these staff. Yet, as this celebration is an expression of appreciation, it is also a mark of respect for the increasing number of NHS and social care staff who are losing their lives in their fight to support those with covid-19. “As the clap happens” my mum relayed to me, “in the NHS family there is also an outpouring of grief”. It is in recognition of this grief that we must continue to express our gratitude to the NHS and social care services, truly acknowledging the sacrifices which are being made for the health of others.
I encourage us to think of the NHS as an emblem of hope; to constantly remind ourselves of the compassion which radiates through our health and care system during this time of unparalleled uncertainty. In this recognition may we too remember to look out for one another. To smile at a stranger, regardless of how far in space this smile needs to travel. Thank you, NHS for giving us all something to be genuinely grateful for. Let’s carry this gratitude and compassion into our isolation dwellings and support each other through this bloody pandemic.