With the global spread of COVID-19, people in many countries have been overwhelmed. Nurses have been affected, whether on the frontlines in critical care or testing or sidelined due to resources being diverted into critical care. Many retired nurses want to return to work but are forced to stay at home in self-isolation, whereas some student nurses graduated early to start working. Nurses associated with NCFI have been reaching out to one another, listening to each others' stories, sending words of encouragement, and praying. Here are a few of their stories.
Rennard, a young critical care nurse from the Philippines, described the anxiety experienced with the admission of the first COVID-19 patient. “Every day we felt scared that we might become infected. Our mental health was affected; we had to be very meticulous. Sometimes we were in tears because of seeing things we had never seen before. Deaths happened daily. Numbers kept on increasing. Discharges were few. My faith was affected, and I burst into tears, crying out to God: Why did this pandemic happen? We do not know. It is God who knows. We pray that this crisis will soon pass. I am thankful for my NCFI friends whom I met during the NCFI World Congress in 2016, for the prayers that keep me going, and that give me strength and encouragement to see the good things despite the crises I face every day.”
For most of the world's population, resources are a challenge and the COVID-19 crisis has increased nurses' personal risks and stresses. A nurse from Zambia wrote, “In the military it is called fighting from the battle front. Deep grief and fear that any time things could go wrong. It is like you have signed a death warrant with no benefits. And you work a lot; many mixed feelings/emotions encircle you. The protective gear is not enough, the equipment is erratic, the question lingers: What is in it for me and my family?”
Another Zambian nurse shared: “Every time I am preparing to go to work, I wonder if I will return to my family. I am conscious that this is my calling, but I also know that I am responsible for my family. I am always praying for protection as I attend to different clients. Appropriate PPE is slowly being put in place, but my protection is from the Lord.”
When available, PPE creates physical barriers that challenge normal nurse–patient relationships. However, one nurse in Australia sees opportunity. “Armed often with our gloved hands and the simple comfort of eye contact from behind plastic, we have an incredible privilege to bring hope, life, compassion, care and competence to those God has placed before us. The remarkable feature has been intentionally choosing to spend time with anxious patients as they wait, listening to their fears and thoughts and not rushing out of their rooms. Somehow in others' deepest fears and most vulnerable conversations, God provides us with words to anchor patients on God's goodness and love.”
One young Canadian nurse wrote: “Working at the start of the pandemic was frustrating. Sometimes protocols changed three times per shift. There were arguments over how to best utilize PPE and underneath was palpable fear and anxiety in my co-workers.”
The often hidden yet powerful ministry of prayer and encouragement is deeply needed as described by Martha, a retired nurse from Argentina who wanted to return to work but was not allowed. “I discovered in my loneliness how much time I gave God and how much time I gave to other things that were unnecessary. Now I see from the stillness. I value the work of my colleagues without the competition of my younger years and with a new type of collaboration as they ask me to stay home, pray, send messages of encouragement, and listen. That is my job in this pandemic: to be still and to be in constant prayer.”
The prayer and fellowship people experience as part of the NCFI community are valued aspects of membership and reflect NCFI's purpose to connect Christian nurses globally, to encourage nurses to live out their faith in professional practice, deepen their spiritual life, and promote friendship and communication across all ages and nations.