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Department: Guest Editorial

COVID-19 and changing social norms

Editor(s): Laskowski-Jones, Linda MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, NEA-BC, FAAN, FAWM

Author Information
Nursing Management (Springhouse): June 2020 - Volume 51 - Issue 6 - p 5
doi: 10.1097/01.NUMA.0000662692.59015.98
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Back in early March, I had a business-related trip to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. My itinerary included a few days in Washington State. Like nearly everyone else in the world, I closely followed the spread and response to COVID-19. The news broke on day 1 of my trip that the first US deaths occurred...in my general vicinity. My plans didn't change, but the news inspired me to wash my hands more often, use hand sanitizer frequently, and avoid touching my face.

What did change dramatically was the behavior of people. New social norms emerged overnight. An elbow bump quickly replaced a handshake. Passengers on the airplane carefully cleaned their surroundings with germicidal wipes. Surgical masks appeared in public. With the high demand, the price of a single surgical mask skyrocketed from under $1 to $7.99 each at the airport. Alcohol gel flew off store shelves and became a scarce commodity; people started sharing homemade formulas. Airline seats opened up on my trip home as conferences and events all over the globe were being canceled and real fear of contagion arose.

What amazes me most is that years of public service announcements and educational efforts about preventing the spread of the seasonal flu had little impact on societal behavior. But even before the mandated closures and restrictions imposed by official decrees, COVID-19 commanded the public's rapt attention and action in record time. No doubt the intense news coverage and “viral” social media posts accomplished what we couldn't in other disease outbreaks.

Beyond the crisis and tragedy COVID-19 has wrought on humanity, I remain optimistic that positive outcomes will ultimately emerge and be sustained. First, if people keep up proper hand hygiene alone, transmissible diseases can be prevented and lives saved the world over. Second, quarantining people in their homes may permanently drive the expansion of telehealth systems and help overcome existing regulatory and technologic barriers. Third, any missteps or errors made in the various aspects of this response will provide valuable lessons learned to more effectively manage infectious disease outbreaks going forward.

Public health has always been the domain of nurses. Now more than ever, in this true year of the nurse and beyond, thank you and your staff members for your unwavering courage, expert care, and dedication to your patients. You're the consummate heroes on the frontlines across the globe!

Are you a new nurse manager dealing with crisis? See page 17. For information on compassion fatigue and second victim syndrome, see pages 30 and 38. And for strategies to help support your team during this difficult time, see page 56.

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Many thanks to Linda Laskowski-Jones for sharing her insightful editorial from Nursing2020 with our Nursing Management readers. As I write this, my hospital is in the middle of the pandemic surge in the New York City epicenter, with “pop-up” ICUs everywhere to accommodate the flood of seriously ill COVID-19 patients. Although different parts of the country are experiencing varying degrees of COVID-19 spread, I know we share feelings ranging from being overwhelmed and scared to being fearless, committed, and passionate—all at the same time! Effective leadership is critical, and you may even be struggling with adapting a style to fit this dynamic situation. If you're journaling through this crisis, Nursing Management wants to publish your story on our blog to chronicle our journey and what we're learning. Please email our Senior Managing Editor at Coleen.Stern@wolterskluwer.com. Our shared nursing values of saving lives, relieving suffering, and providing compassionate care have never been more essential. Thank you all for living these values, and so much more.

—Rosanne Raso, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, Nursing Management Editor-in-Chief

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