The Virus

One of my very best friends says, “Hardship doesn’t develop character, it reveals it.” I’ve never really agreed with him on that. Until recently.

At this writing, COVID-19 has changed nearly everything in our world. We cannot leave our homes unless it’s to get essential supplies like food and medicine. Family members can’t drop in for Sunday dinner. Seniors in retirement centers aren’t allowed visitors. School is cancelled. And most people are working from home. 

Healthcare workers, on the other hand, are showing up every day to care for the sick and putting their own lives at risk to do so. There is a lot of concern about capacity, staffing, and equipment like ventilators, masks, and gloves. At a time when most people are hoarding all the hand sanitizer and toilet paper, healthcare workers are walking onto the front line, risking exposure, and caring for those who need them.

In hospitals all over the United States, there is a sense of unity and teamwork. Employees are reaching out across departments to offer help where it is needed most. No longer is anything “not my job”. 

Even the non-clinical staff are finding ways to help. Many have created Relaxation Rooms in which staff can take a quick 10 minute break for some healthy snacks, low lighting, and calming music to recenter and recharge in order to keep going in the middle of a long shift.

It’s inspiring.  

A close friend and former colleague who is a Director of Risk and Patient Safety said, “I’m observing improvement in communication and teamwork that I hope holds after the pandemic is over.”

And that’s the question, isn’t it: will it last? I’ve seen the people of this country pull together many times, be it after a hurricane like Katrina, a mass shooting like Las Vegas, and especially after 9/11. We were one nation coming together, helping one another. 

Do we forget about kindness and selflessness when times are good? Do we only check in on our loved ones when we’re fearful? Volunteerism shouldn’t just happen in the face of tragedy. That little old lady at the end of the block could use our help grocery shopping even when there isn’t a deadly virus out there. 

We still have a long way to go before this is over. We have many more weeks of sheltering in place and staying home ahead of us. But once that’s over, I’m hoping we still remember to call our family members and tell them we love them, visit our grandparents in the retirement center, offer to run to the store for those who have trouble doing so, put service before self. 

If hardship really did develop character and not reveal it, should it really take a pandemic to bring that out in us?

Author: Kate Kalthoff

It's simple: leave people, places, and things better than I found them. For more than 20 years, Katherine Kalthoff has been working to improve the way healthcare organizations connect with the people they serve. She began her career at Gift of Hope, the organ procurement organization for Illinois, approaching families and securing their consent to donate a loved one’s organs for transplant. Through compassionate, empathetic listening, Kate led the Family Services team to one of the highest consent rates in the country. From there, Kate went to Advocate Health Care, Illinois’s largest healthcare system, as a Physician Relations and Business Development Manager, improving physician satisfaction and strengthening the relationships of both the employed and independent physicians with the system as a whole. Just prior to joining Northwest Community Healthcare as the Patient Experience Officer, Kate was the first Manager of Patient Experience at DuPage Medical Group where she built a platform of organization-wide service excellence through her inspiring brand of education, training, and one-on-one coaching. A much sought-after speaker and trainer, Kate has a very simple approach to her work: leave people, places and things better than you found them.

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