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The New Normal

Updated | Published

It's hard to know what the future holds for us after COVID-19.

by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist)

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

What is the New Normal after the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The New Normal

By definition, it’s hard to imagine the unimaginable. At least it is for me. I never could have predicted or imagined the world we’re in now. With the exception of 9/11, I was raised in a peaceful, non-warring period of time in an affluent society...which gave me and my generation a feeling of security. After all, we are American citizens, safe and untouchable….right?

But then COVID happened. If this unimaginable pandemic could happen….then what else could happen? Biblical plagues? Economic collapse? The end of life as we know it?

Because of this pandemic, we now know that we’re vulnerable and nothing is guaranteed. It really never has been, but we’ve been in a comfortable bubble. There are so many things we may never again take for granted, like unlimited supplies of everything we ever wanted. Like financial security and health. We are not in control and we have to reassess our values and challenge our basic assumptions.

In the here and now, there are a lot of losses.

Personal Pandemic Losses

My heart goes out to graduating teens who never had a 2020 prom. Youngsters who weren’t able to go off to normal dormitory college life, who can’t congregate as kids love to do, and who had normal stolen from them.

The same is true for couples getting married during COVID, for anniversary celebrations, for funerals that couldn’t take place. Surely the worst of all, patients who died alone and their loved ones who were forced to stay away from their side.

There have been losses upon losses. We have to identify the losses and grieve them. Mine, by comparison to many, are minor. Like not knowing if I can get my hair highlighted when I want. Like giving up any foreseeable plans to travel to Italy. Or Alaska. Or anywhere. Bob and I hardly ever go to the movies, but now it’s not an option and I want to go. I can’t wear lipstick or makeup under my mask at work and my skin is breaking out around my nose. It’s all rather trite but I am not in control.

Fear

It’s scary, too. It’s strange to be wary of your own friends and family. Like wondering if my own grown children may expose me to COVID. What about the teenagers in our family? Are they really wearing masks and being careful when we don’t see them? Doubtful. Teenagers are notorious for feeling invincible.

Family gatherings can be scary and awkward. A co-worker announced to her family that she was moving forward with plans to host a pool party and barbecue to celebrate her child’s high school graduation but that she would be enforcing social distancing. She said that her own immediate family would sit at one table, but that another family sub-group would sit at another table in a different room. You can only imagine all the ruffled feathers around that announcement. What actually happened was that hugs and beers were freely shared within minutes of the party starting and everyone ended up in the pool together because social distancing among family members is just difficult.

Future

Some things will never go back to pre-COVID. Masks and infrared sensors are here to stay.

I hear drones from Amazon will drop dog food into my front yard. Work and private lives will blur as many of us work from home. There are changes to how we eat, how we worship, how we workout, how we connect.

In healthcare, the Hospital at Home model will gain traction and MedSurg patients will be cared for in their own homes. There will be more telephonic care delivery. Hospitals will essentially be big ICU units.

Primary school classrooms will re-open but will be re-configured for social distancing. We don’t know the social effects on children yet. How will they play with others? We’ll stand in lines to get on elevators where only 2-3 people will be allowed at a time. Subways, buses, and trains will be less crowded as people avoid dense crowds and freeways will be more crowded as everyone drives themselves. The infrastructure of cities will change to accommodate social distancing.

Infection Awareness

Plexiglass barriers in drug stores and banks are here to stay. We will all be even more conscientious about handwashing, masking, and coughing into our elbows.

Handshakes will become a thing of the past, and future generations will be shocked to hear that we used to touch strangers so casually without thought of disease transmission.

We’ll see more of the “grasp and greet” where you clasp your hands together and place them over your heart to show warmth. We might find ourselves giving a thumbs up to accompany a smile that can’t be seen beneath our masks. I try to smile with my eyes but I don’t know if it’s working. I hope so.

Social Injustice

It’d be wishful to think that this pandemic will serve as a catalyst for us all to unite, for inclusiveness, but instead, class differences, racial division, and injustice may increase. Is it a coincidence that protests against systemic racism happened alongside the pandemic? Or is a heightened intolerance for intolerance somehow connected to the pandemic we’re going through?

Minorities and low-income groups have taken the hardest hit. Field workers picking broccoli in the Salinas Valley can’t afford to take so much as a half-day off of work. Social distancing is impossible and field workers travel to work packed into overcrowded vans. Front line service workers are bearing the brunt of COVID.

Estimates say a half billion people will be pushed into poverty. Systemic health disparities are glaringly exposed. Professionals can work from home, but day workers don’t have access to wi-fi or laptops. Telemedicine doesn’t benefit cyber have-nots.

Positivity

Despite everything, I believe we are amazingly resilient and adaptable. In healthcare, we’ll change to be faster and more flexible.

We will see unheard-of advances in technology, in artificial intelligence. We have a deep resolve to live and thrive, and to live meaningfully.

I don't know what the future looks like, but I believe in us.

Hi! Nice to meet you! I love helping new nurses in all my various roles. I work in a hospital in Staff Development, and am a blogger and author.

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4 Comment(s)

OUxPhys, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiology. Has 4 years experience.

This is temporary. Eventually some things will loosen up. By then we should know more about the virus, have an effective treatment or cure. 

Kitiger, RN

Specializes in Private Duty Pediatrics. Has 42 years experience.

On 8/27/2020 at 8:06 AM, OUxPhys said:

This is temporary. Eventually some things will loosen up. By then we should know more about the virus, have an effective treatment or cure. 

I think it will take at least several years before things settle down. We will have to find a way to help people who are out of work; WPA? Job creation?Soup kitchens? Salvation Army?

I do think we will learn more about this virus, and we will find better treatments. I also hope, if we get infected and re-infected, that the illness will become milder.

RN-to- BSN, ADN, RN

Specializes in SCRN. Has 7 years experience.

I think humanity has been thru worse, calling COVID " unimaginable" is an overstatement. Imagine black plague, smallpox and Spanish flu. There you go. The difference is we did not have social media to spread mass hysteria. 

Yes, it may take several years for some, some will never get over it. Go ahead and spray a can of Lysol around for as long as you wish. The response varies. I am not to sit at home, I will shake a person's hand, give them a hug and walk with them without a mask if that's what they want to do. It will not take me several years to get over this. I've had COVID due to work exposure. I am done with it.

Nurse Beth, MSN

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

11 hours ago, RN-to- BSN said:

I think humanity has been thru worse, calling COVID " unimaginable" is an overstatement. Imagine black plague, smallpox and Spanish flu. There you go. The difference is we did not have social media to spread mass hysteria. 

 

 Restaurants closed, military  tents in front of hospitals, schools closed, no NFL, lines to enter stores, daily counts of death...yes, unimaginable to me outside of a science fiction novel or history book.