Access Now: AORN COVID-19 Clinical Support

Archive April 2020 XXI, No. 4

Editor's Page: Homeward Bound

My new normal involves cutting crusts and countless conference calls.

Daniel Cook

Daniel Cook, Editor-in-Chief


The sun was shining on a warm March day as I walked across the parking lot of my son's school. Hours earlier, the governor of Pennsylvania had called off classes to help slow the spread of COVID-19. My nine-year-old looked up and yelled from across the playground, "Dad, did you hear the news?" He balled his hands on either side of his head and slowly spread his fingers wide: "mind blown." That about sums up the sudden and rapid escalation of cancellations, closures, physical distancing and quarantines.

What the heck happened? When will life return to normal? Will it ever? As we huddle in our homes with loved ones, we're left to worry about the outbreak's short-term effect on our health and its long-term impact on the economy.

Early last month, our editorial team was abruptly sent home and forced to publish the issue you're holding while maintaining our physical distance. The idea of telecommuting held plenty of appeal — until I was forced to do it. My days are spent trying to strike a balance between work and home without being able to leave the house. Instead of swallowing a quick lunch at my real desk, I'm trimming crusts off jelly sandwiches, whittling seeds off strawberries (don't ask) and adding no more than three squirts of chocolate syrup to cups of milk for a raucous lunchtime crowd.

During video chats with colleagues, I've learned to angle my laptop to keep piles of laundry out of view, pair button-ups with basketball shorts and keep a finger on the mute button for those perfectly timed interruptions from my young office assistants. Hallway commutes are nice, but it's difficult to find a stopping point without the pull to be home in time for dinner.

My rambunctious yellow lab provides me with regularly scheduled breaks, forcing me to step away and step out. Late one afternoon, my wife greeted me at the door as I returned from being dragged around the block. Her face was ashen as she pointed me back into the garage, away from the kids.

Oh, no. Who has it?

"The governor is closing the state's wine and liquor stores tomorrow," she said while placing car keys in my hand. Forget toilet paper. Working parents who shelter in place with two young children stockpile quarantinis.

When news of the coronavirus outbreak developed quickly, our editorial team adjusted on the fly. We hustled to interview surgical leaders for this month's cover story, a topic we had no idea we'd be covering just a few weeks ago.

I connected with Beth Hogan, clinical director of nursing at Northern GI Endoscopy Center in Glens Falls, N.Y. When we spoke, she was alone in a facility that days earlier had been bustling with patients. The center was temporarily shuttered, her staff furloughed until further notice.

Beth was trying to maintain some sense of normalcy in these troubling times. She watched webinars about how to cope with the outbreak, monitored news reports and kept her physicians aware of the latest developments. Like all of us, she's mostly trying to navigate a confusing and stressful time. During our conversation, Beth told me tens of thousands of retired nurses and physicians in the state of New York have volunteered to help care for stricken patients, and that some members of her sidelined staff have offered their services to the local hospital.

In a time of great uncertainty, it's comforting to count on the passion healthcare providers have for their true calling. You can force them to stop working, but good luck getting them to stop caring. There's no doubt we'll get through this crisis. You and countless other brave and dedicated health professionals will see to it. OSM

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