It’s a year many people would like to forget. The world is feeling turmoil and a wide range of emotions – fear, horror, disbelief, grief, heartbreak, anger, resentment, and rage. Yet, at the same time there are positives that sometimes shine bright even in the midst of the many gray clouds of 2020. For many, there has been an ignited sense of purpose and a reactivated commitment to humanity. There have also been swift changes in the healthcare industry that will positively impact everyone’s well-being long after COVID-19 stops weighing so heavily in every aspect of our lives.
The novel coronavirus is transformational, forcing change whether you’re prepared or not.
Following Labor Day and school reopenings COVID-19 has surged once again, with many hospitals reaching 100% capacity and some needing to transfer patients to other states because they have no more ICU beds. With flu season upon us and cooler temperatures in many locales, which means more people inside for longer periods of time, there are concerns that we may face a “twindemic” – COVID-19 plus flu.
Wearing masks, washing our hands, social distancing and staying informed are all the “new normal.” Despite the changes, there are blessings to be found. Have you discovered yours?
It’s a challenge to have children attending school virtually and parents working remotely all at the same time in the same space.
But, this challenge presents a blessing. Many are spending more time at home and have non-existent commutes for many. And we have been reminded how important family and friendship are, especially when challenges abound. There is more gratitude and less taking others for granted. We have also tapped into creativity we may not even realized we had. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.
For my family, it’s meant more time with my mom after losing my dad in December 2019. He was hospitalized 8 times the year of his death and would have been at high risk for severe complications and death from COVID-19.
It’s haunting just to imagine the anguish if he had died in the hospital all alone and, due to his dementia, likely thinking he had been abandoned when he took his last breath.
And then not being able to have the opportunity to celebrate his life in person with family and friends would have made things even more heartbreaking.
Timing is sometimes everything, and I feel immense gratitude for his having been spared a COVID death. And, in that way, the coronavirus has helped bring comfort on days when grief is strongly making its presence known.
Renewed hope of racial justice
The tragedy of George Floyd’s senseless death (and the many deaths that preceded it, including Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor as well as the death of Rayshard Brooks which followed 3 weeks later) opened the eyes of the world to the deep-seated racism which stalks its victims each and every day.
For some, overwhelming physical and emotional exhaustion has set in. After all, we have seen some version of this movie for 400 years.
For the first time in decades, there is renewed hope for substantive and concrete change powered by righteous rage, strategic actions, and a multicultural demand for the elimination of the myriad disparities created by design in the many internecine systems which have rigged the outcomes long before its victims are even born.
There’s a “woke” global populace who hopefully will no longer ignore and cannot “unsee” the reality of racial injustice. There is a new generation of passionate people taking the time to join those who’ve fought before them from the time the first slaves were ripped from their motherland, put on plantations, separated from their families, and physically violated.
It feels like a multi-decade movement has evolved and been turbocharged to achieve material and sustainable change. One can only hope mightily that we don’t fall back into incremental symbolism and an amnestic fog once the cameras have moved on to another story.
Collective power to overcome inequities
With more people living paycheck to paycheck and soon to have no paycheck on its way at all, Americans of all stripes have been pushed like no other time, including the Great Depression.
Now that more people are in the same boat (where others have been at sea for far too long), a greater opportunity exists to step into the collective power that has always been present but often underestimated both by citizens and the system.
The power which won’t take no for an answer and demands – with confidence, unerring determination, informed boycotts, and voting – changes like gender pay equity, a real living wage without the need for 3 jobs just to make ends meet, access to both affordable college education and housing, and race-blind criminal justice.
Gen Y, Millennials, and Gen Xers are actively engaged and have higher expectations which assume a more truly inclusive and just world than many of those in the generations preceding them.
With the multicultural, multi-generational movement sparked by George Floyd’s death, there is an opportunity to address many inequities simultaneously, particularly given that in many cases they are inextricably intertwined.
The landscape for those in healthcare is changing dramatically. It is also unlikely to return to “business as usual.”
There is neither the time nor the option not to focus on the patient and not to accommodate and embrace both different modes of care delivery, such as telehealth, as well as amended reimbursement methodologies.
With all hands on deck, team-based care is now a survival technique for saving lives and sustaining clinicians as they are immersed in the overwhelm and emotional toll of supporting patients infected with a virus about which we still have much to learn. In the process, many have found a renewed sense of purpose and a return to the reason they chose to enter the field of medicine in the first place.
Providers and payers have been reminded of their inextricable interdependencies. Scientists and big Pharma across the globe have collaborated and are running parallel or serial stage pathways of development in the race to find an effective and safe vaccine.
Innovative and disciplined start-up technology and service companies have had the luxury of laser focus, with both well-defined needs and a market ready for their offerings.
And the often underestimated benefit and positive impact of simplicity, common sense, logic, reason, and pragmatism have been rediscovered and have resumed their rightful place on stage.
It’s been a year of change. We can only wonder what 2021 will hold, but 2020 has proved we have the power to change for the better – body, mind, and spirit.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
~ Margaret Mead