Many nurses have now been on the shifting frontlines of the COVID-19 response for five months, following the virus from hotspot to hotspot. I have gained a true respect and appreciation for the tenacity and endurance that many of my colleagues have displayed. Speaking with travel nurses that were some of the first to respond in the metro New York City area, I repeatedly heard statements expressing disbelief that people across America are not taking the virus seriously. Listening to their stories made it impossible to disagree and I recalled videos pleading with viewers to observe guidelines to “flatten the curve”. Why did so many of our neighbors ignore these requests? After all, nurses have consistently polled as the most trusted profession in America for nearly two decades. Our physician colleagues and most healthcare professionals tend to rank very highly as well and were sharing the same messages. It could be argued that our elected representatives and other prominent figures did not always support the message that so many were trying to share, but I feel that to expect better of these individuals is naive.
I realized that the more unexpected and disappointing lack of support came from within our profession. As tens of millions of Americans watched their lives change in an instant and struggled to figure out how they were going to adapt to a new world, videos started flooding social media that diluted and obfuscated the important messages coming from those that were seeing the worst that COVID-19 had to offer. Choreographed videos from nurses and other healthcare professionals showed the world that many of us are talented in multiple domains, but the comments on many of these videos do not reflect an appreciation for those gifts. Instead, there seems to be an underlying sentiment of resentment from many who had just had their lives upended so that we could flatten the curve and not overwhelm the healthcare system. Many of these videos received significantly more views than the videos containing pleas from our colleagues in the areas being hardest hit.
As we continue our response for the duration of COVID-19, I think it may be of value to consider if our social media messaging is supporting the hard work being done in the crisis areas across America. I believe it is important that we remember the place of honor that our neighbors have conferred our profession. It may be prudent to think of the messages we are sharing with the world and how they could be interpreted as we move forward. The idea of undermining the credibility and goodwill that our predecessors cultivated over so many years is unfortunate to consider.
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