Hot topic - restrictions

The impact of the restrictions… have they impeded our ability to care and connect?

Apr 27, 2021 | Hot Topics

The most recent hot topic was bound to be something to do with covid; we have been living with it for over twelve months now. So, in conversation with colleagues, we posed the above question and gathered these responses to share…

Something I have noticed and find very interesting and disturbing is how easily we are led; how blindly we acquiesce to rules that have come from who knows where and that often make little, if any, sense.

As health care professionals we are allegedly intelligent, autonomous, free-thinking people and yet in this current situation we seem to have abandoned all reason and all sense and allowed ourselves to be governed by regulations and restrictions that hinder care; that undermine the well-being of ourselves and those in our care and that have knock on effects that are widespread and devastating – isolation, the breakdown of communities, death, fear and anxiety to name a few. 

A profession that is founded on evidence, it appears we have abandoned basic standards in a blinkered obedience to the voices of a few.

And what of compassion, respect, decency and care… the foundation stones of any true health care, when we seem to be happy to deny people the right to visit, be together, access treatment, support and connect with one another.

Taking one aspect of these restrictions and looking at mask wearing… could it be that it is not a ‘small price to pay’ as many people say, with reports of the health impacts of the long term wearing of masks.

If we are reminded of the basic standards of decency and respect in relationships, the basics of care for ourselves and each other, maybe we will ask a few more questions of those that are calling the shots on these restrictions and where they are getting their ‘intel’ from. (Midwife, UK)

Nurses are wearing their mask day in, day out in the nursing home, the residents are not able to see our faces, they cannot hear my voice so well either and now cannot even see the expression of my face. It is as if we are being silenced.

They don’t complain as covid is dangerous right? Often we are the only ones they see on a day, imagine that, how lonely, how cold… or not? Yes, we are restricted by masks, gowns and whatever they invent to keep the virus out, but we cannot be silenced. Do our eyes sparkle, is our whole body welcoming the other, are our footsteps the steps of love for all, for all to feel? 

Remember whatever we are restricted in, love can never be restricted. (Nurse, Netherlands)

I have always had the feeling that we need to keep birth suite normal through covid.  Women are too raw, too vulnerable to be messed with.  I can’t work in birth suite without closeness, it just doesn’t work that way.  Intimacy is one of the most important ways midwives support women through their labour and birth of their baby. Intimacy means sisterhood, being with someone you can trust, someone you can let your guard down with, ask for anything you need, lean on, know you are safe with. To really live this with women you have to be your true self and one hundred percent there for it. Whilst PPE is an affront to our common sense, in connecting with people it doesn’t actually change anything. We have to remember that.  We can still connect and let intimacy be known and felt with it on. There have been things that really don’t make sense to me during this covid time, like restricted access for partners in the labour, birth and early parenting process. I reacted at first but that didn’t help, so then I realised that working with women from intimacy is an even deeper pull, a knowing that I have to deepen everything in my life to be able to go to that next level of support, for myself and for them. (Midwife, Australia)

During lockdown people continued to be sick with illnesses unrelated to the virus and continued to need care and as a community nurse I was required to go and see many of these people in their homes.

My first time donning full PPE was for a patient who had been discharged home from hospital to be cared for by his family whilst he was dying.

There was quite a lot of work to do; create a connection with the patient and his family, teach them how to attend to care needs, support them to feel confident and safe and set up and administer the needed medications. 

I was feeling a bit daunted about the PPE gear, thinking how is it going to be possible to connect with people as I am used to doing, with all this paraphernalia in the way.

As I prepared the injectable medication for my patient on the tiny space provided for me on his dressing table, I held the syringe up to check the volume and, in that moment, saw myself reflected in the mirror all covered over in the PPE gear. 

What came into the clearest focus though was my eyes. Despite the mask and the protective glasses, they stood out bright and clear for all to see. 

I relaxed right there and then as I realised that connection between people can’t be interfered with or broken no matter what.

It is always available to us right there, through our eyes. (Nurse, New Zealand)

What has been highlighted during the upheaval that has been created by the current covid restrictions is how we as nurses and midwives make it our business to find a way to connect and be with our patients with or without masks and PPE; there is never any barrier, in fact we are very experienced at this and it is part of our everyday.

Connecting and being with another is at the core of the care we offer in our various roles; patients are seen for who they are during their state of ill health and vulnerability. We are on an equal footing. No amount of cover up will ever change that.

Recently an experience confirmed this… a mum with her new baby visited for a health check and she was wearing full Hijab, a traditional cultural dress for women that left only her eyes partially seen. I wore a mask and we communicated via the telephone interpreter. We had a lovely open connection and when she left I realised how normal it all was and how there had been no emphasis on any of the barriers, in fact they had not been focussed on at all.  Our valuable connection and the clarity of our exchange was honoured and very special. (Midwife, Australia)

What’s clear for me considering this topic and with other things I have read is how whilst all of our experiences are quite different, with no consistency on how restrictions are approached or managed and how fast things change in some places and slow in others; our connection remains constant. Connection to our own essence and steadiness and with that the very natural extension to our connection with others. It’s like the restrictions were aiming to disturb that, make us think that we are not connecting. But connection is not dependent on what we do or do not wear, how close or far away we stand or even if we are in the same room or not or even speaking the same language. Our voice, the way we move around those we care for, the sparkle in our eyes and the quality of our presence can still be felt no matter what. (Nurse, Australia)

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