Living and working with the ‘new normal’ of COVID-19

By Angela Huffman, RN Clinical Services Coordinator

Since the beginning of March, when we were introduced to COVID-19, our world as we knew it has been turned upside down. It will never be the same.

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted our personal and professional lives in immeasurable ways from being able to see our loved ones, social distancing, wearing face masks all the time and the inability to frequent our favorite places and businesses.

As a professional, I have never experienced anything similar to this in my career. We have seen a lot of regulatory and reimbursement changes over the years, but once they are implemented, we usually gain our stride and everything falls into place.

COVID-19 is unlike any change that we will experience, hopefully in our lifetime, but we must adjust daily to what the “new normal” will be. With the ever-changing landscape in the battle against this virus, we must remain flexible, adaptable, creative, innovative and collaborative. Despite the daily challenges, COVID-19 has been an accelerator for positive change and advances in healthcare. COVID-19 is one of those pivotal moments in time in which we gain the opportunity to collaborate and work together to identify and fix underlying problems that plague our healthcare system.

The pandemic has cast a bright light on the challenges that we knew already existed in the healthcare infrastructure and has reinforced the need to collaborate between healthcare systems, government agencies and other key stakeholders. As a result, we have seen government agencies and legislators intervene in the economy in ways that are completely unprecedented with funding, supplies, testing, technology and education.

We have had to build courage to innovate and adopt new processes to fix antiquated procedures. Because of the pandemic, the use of telehealth has become a mainstay to keep our residents connected with their physicians and specialty care. Because of COVID-19, telehealth will continue to grow and become a primary mode of care delivery in the future. The pandemic has had a lasting impact on the way physical products are manufactured to ensure availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep staff and residents safe. The creativity is remarkable:
• a local glove company stopping glove production to make masks,
• a hockey equipment manufacturer making isolation gowns,
• universities and manufacturers using 3-D printers and injection molds to make face shields.

My only hope is that this innovation and collaboration remains in the forefront as we continue our journey with COVID-19 and beyond. The advances in the use of technology, from allowing our residents to spend quality time with their loved ones to conducting interviews for new employees to engaging with businesses and meetings through Zoom, is fundamentally shifting us to a new norm to remain connected.

I’ve heard several people comment that they cannot “wait for things to get back to normal.” I too, can grow tired from dealing with all things COVID-19, but part of me desires to pursue the “new normal.” COVID has brought many challenges, it has also brought us together around the dinner table, allowed Americans to enjoy the great outdoors, fostered teamwork and collaboration, and has inspired leadership, innovation and creativity.

In our “new normal”, our residents, families and staff members will be beneficiaries of the lessons learned from the trials that we have endured, because we are better from it.