Upstream thinking and planning for the post-coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) future should occur now. A preferred post-COVID-19 pandemic future is one where positive synergy produces a combined effect on innovation, growth, survival, and readiness for the next pandemic.
Seven complexity lessons for the future
If the world's citizens are to survive COVID-19 and future pandemics, a deep understanding of complexity is required. Further, the ethics of what it means to be citizens of the world must be embraced. The world is neither well prepared for novel pandemics nor the surge capacity necessary to endure them.
Edgar Morin, the French philosopher, sociologist, and complexity scientist identified seven complex lessons for the future.1 These complexity lessons, derived from Morins' life and work and outlined below, can help assist nursing practice and education to frame and prepare for the post-COVID-19 pandemic future.
1. Error and illusion should be expected. The potential for errors exists, and things may not be as they seem. Practitioners worked under an illusion of safety, unaware of a deadly virus, which left us underprepared for COVID-19. Limited supply of simple protective equipment in crowded conditions posed a challenge. Many practices quickly adapted and shifted to telehealth services and admitting patients to clinics one at a time. Future NPs will require an understanding of complexity, rapid change, and innovation; this content is currently void in many NP training programs.
2. Pertinent knowledge is critical. Morin purports that knowledge is important to develop our capacity.1 NPs must know how to use, receive, and translate knowledge to practice. Research skills in big data analytics, implementation science, and trend analysis will be invaluable. Practice must be intelligent, and the best research must be practical and swiftly translated. Ongoing education in epistemology and evidence-based practice is critical.
3. Teach the human condition. Morin states that respect for our earth citizenship will be indispensable for our survival.1 Enhanced interprofessional education, care delivery models, and healthcare from a global perspective are necessary. The COVID-19 pandemic reinforces that nothing happens in one part of the world that does not affect us all.
4. Teach earth identity. NPs are essential healthcare providers but also members of the human family. Sustainability of human, ecological, economic, and social resources with an emphasis on efficiency must be the foci of how NPs are taught and how they provide care.
5. Confront uncertainties. NPs are valuable frontline leaders in periods of uncertainty. NPs must be prepared to provide high-quality care even in uncertain times. This will require preparation in quality improvement, evidence-based practice, implementation science, and research.
6. Understanding each other is essential. According to Morin, mutual understanding is necessary to move past the barbarian stage of misunderstanding.1 To provide comprehensive care to those we do not understand, our education must be steeped in cross-cultural understanding, cultural competence, and negotiation.
7. Ethics of the human genre must guide our practice. Ethics, policy, and practice must reflect the morals of what it means to be human. In situations of limited resources, life-saving decisions must be made, and NPs must be skilled in ethical problem-solving and decision-making to fairly inform choices.
Preparing for the future
COVID-19 will not go away tomorrow. It is in its complex and uncertain context that NP education and practice must prepare for the future.
1. Morin E. Seven Complex Lessons in Education for the Future
. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; 1999.