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Words Matter

Alexander, Mary MA, RN, CRNI®, CAE, FAAN; INS Chief Executive Officer Editor, Journal of Infusion Nursing

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doi: 10.1097/NAN.0000000000000399
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Mary Alexander, MA, RN, CRNI®, CAE, FAAN INS Chief Executive Officer Editor, Journal of Infusion Nursing

We find ourselves in turbulent times that require us to re-evaluate the way we live, work, and relate to each other. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted how we care for patients, as well as our way of life, in profound ways. We are still adjusting to these conditions, challenged by the many changes that we have been required to make. Questions remain as we try to ensure the health and safety of our families, friends, and colleagues. In-person meetings have been replaced by virtual events. More educational programs are being offered on-demand so that the clinical information members need is still available. Our workplaces look different as the numbers of employees and visitors are limited. The way that we connect with each other has been affected greatly by the global pandemic. In addition, the way we communicate with each other continues to evolve during this period of rapid change.

As we navigate this unfolding crisis, we have encountered new terminology that has emerged to describe our current state. We've become familiar with concepts such as “social distancing,” which we are called to put into practice to decrease the spread of COVID-19. It is recommended that individuals stay 6 feet apart while out in public. While this measure surely does keep people at a physical distance from each other, it has not stopped people from engaging each other socially in different ways. Humans need social interaction and connection. Although physical distancing is a strategy to slow the spread of this disease, social connections are important to our well-being and mental health. We have found new ways to stay connected virtually through social networks, video, phone calls, and written correspondence. In these difficult times, it is essential that we maintain our connections with others, so that we can better manage stress and continue to support each other personally and professionally.

We are all trying to envision what the future will look like. We are considering ways to stay connected under the conditions that some are defining as the “new normal.” Wearing masks, not gathering in large groups, as well as other disruptions, represent a dramatic shift from what we had all considered to be normal. It would be more accurate to describe the current state as the “new reality,” which we must deal with for the foreseeable future. Until an approved vaccine is available and/or herd immunity is achieved, wearing masks and other measures may continue to be part of our everyday routine. Still, while we have all been challenged by this new reality, some positive outcomes are being achieved. Many employers are finding that staff working remote have been happy and productive. Further, new protocols have been put in place for when staff does return to offices, to keep everyone safe.

While we are all facing the unexpected difficulties caused by the pandemic, INS is completing our work on the revised Infusion Therapy Standards of Practice, which will be published in January 2021. As we all face changes in the way we live, how we communicate with each other, and the way health care is delivered, we are particularly mindful of inclusion, as well as the diversity of our global membership. The Standards of Practice Committee includes global representation, and reviewer feedback came from clinicians in 15 countries, including the United States. This helps us ensure that the revised Standards is crafted with mindfulness of the terms used, to reflect the global audience who practice in various care settings around the world. Rather than relying on US-centric language, we seek to employ language and terminology that will be better understood by all audiences. The inclusion of a glossary is also helpful in this regard. Language used must support practice for all clinicians, all patient populations, and in all care settings.

Standards statements are declarative and indicate certain actions that must be followed to ensure safe practice and optimal patient outcomes. Practice recommendations provide guidance for clinicians to meet a given standard. Terms such as “consider,” “recommend,” “assess,” and “evaluate” allow the nurse to use clinical judgment for making patient care decisions. These words matter, as we seek to provide the best guidance for evidence-based practice, while helping clinicians stay best prepared to exercise their own judgment, when necessary, in practice settings around the globe.

As we evaluate the way we process the terminology that has risen in response to the global pandemic, as well as in our attempts to address our diverse, global audience, we are also mindful of how we represent our commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. As INS addresses organizational initiatives, we will be cognizant of the words we use, as well as the diversity of perspectives that inform and enrich our educational deliverables. From the work of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force to the educational programs and infusion-related resources we offer, attention will be paid so that the language is accurate, inclusive, bias-free, and consistent with the latest developments in the specialty. Our words do matter.

Mary Alexander

© 2020 Infusion Nurses Society