COVID-19: How Did We Get Here?

All healthcare providers are providing care to the best of their ability, but strangely it does not seem like enough.

I keep asking myself how did we get here? Why were alarms not ringing in December when we started to learn of COVID19? Did we trust too much in the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)? I blame myself for not paying more attention to the Chinese crisis. I was busy working and living, thinking, “This will not happen to the US.” Lying awake at night (like many around the globe) I wonder and stress. What could I have done and what to do in the future?

Los Angeles is awaiting the COVID surge, but I know from family, friends, and colleagues in the tri-state area just how bad it could be. All healthcare providers are providing care to the best of their ability, but strangely it does not seem like enough. I have been training displaced surgical staff to function outside the room as personal protective equipment (PPE) safety champions. The nurses have been kind and willing — I can only imagine what I would feel if someone educated me for 2 hours and told me to go work in the operating room. What? Nurses are so flexible and willing, and we are needed and valued more than ever.

The poor patients with cancer are facing the dilemma of receiving a potential life-saving treatment, causing neutropenia and therefore, increasing their risk of contracting the virus. What awful choices. We need to watch and study these patients closely. China had a small study looking that the effects of COVID 19 and cancer treatment.

There is good news in the oncology world. The FDA and Oncology Center of Excellence (OCE) have reassured the cancer world that they are continuing the critical work of oncology product development. Their actions includes supporting clinical trials, working to prevent drug shortages, and keeping the oncology community informed. As much attention has rightful turned to the COVID-19, it is nice to know that the millions living daily with a potentially fatal disease have not been forgotten.

Please be kind to each other. I have witnessed tremendous love and support in healthcare, my neighborhood and everywhere you look. Sadly, I have also witnessed humans with great anxiety and fear acting in unkind ways towards many. Remember to breathe, spend a few minutes thinking about good times that will come, be thankful for little things (sun is shining today) and love yourself.

Be safe, and wash your hands.

Patricia Jakel, RN, co-editor in chief at Oncology Nursing News, is an advance practice nurse for the Solid Tumor Program at UCLA Healthcare. She oversees the care of 25-35 patients receiving chemotherapy, radiation therapy, symptom management, and end-of-life care. Jakel mentors new nurses to the art of oncology nursing. She is also involved in nursing research looking at moral distress and compassion fatigue. She is a frequent speaker on symptom management, new oncology treatments, resilience building and ethical issues in oncology. She has numerous publications on ethics and oncology nursing, compassion fatigue, and chemotherapy agents.