COVID-19 is currently on everybody’s mind - in Australia and in every country and culture
across the globe. It’s the topic of our conversation, it’s changing the way we live, the way we
shop and work, and limits our ability to travel like never before. And this is likely to continue
for some time into the future.
Within my Chaplaincy Team I have a number of spiritual care providers who have extensive
experience as First Responders, including several who currently serve as frontline
paramedics. Chaplain Bruce Tindale has been a paramedic for 37 years and recently wrote
a reflection on his experience of working during the COVID-19 pandemic. I share his words
to encourage you.
“This pandemic sees all of us attending incidents which are challenging us like never before.
Even before we have any real interaction with our patient, we’re requesting family members
and bystanders to stand back at least 1.5 metres, but we also have to try and determine if
the patient has had any contact with a known COVID-19 patient or has recently been
involved in travel. And that’s before we even determine what is actually wrong with our
A colleague was recently discussing with me the fact that it’s not the patient with obvious
COVID-19 that will bring us unstuck, it’s the motorist in a car crash who whilst you are
removing them from the vehicle, coughs or breathes on you. Or the person supposed to be
in quarantine who ventures to the shops and trips and falls but fails to mention their
condition whilst you’re attending them.
In short, paramedics are anxious, possibly like never before. We feel exposed, we feel like
our families are at risk of us bringing the virus home into our own houses. Some of us feel
angry because of the increased risk we’ve been placed in. We are expected to be the calm,
cool and collected face of prehospital care, but to be perfectly honest, many of us don’t feel
very calm, or cool or even remotely collected at this time.
The ability for us to debrief around the back of an ambulance is compromised because of
social distancing and our ability to catch up over a coffee at the start of a shift has been shut
down. This has the effect of placing us all under more and more pressure.
So how do we go forward under such duress, how do we continue in the light of sustained
and prolonged hardship?
We need to realise we’re not alone. Tens of thousands of our colleagues worldwide are
standing up to be counted where they are needed. We are ordinary human beings
performing under extraordinarily testing and trying conditions. We need to realise and
acknowledge this truth for what it is, a testimony to our courage and endurance.
Do what you can to not be consumed with our current event. Take in a walk, or some
exercise. Read the book that you’ve been meaning to finish. Organise a date with your loved
one, even if it’s on the front verandah. Connect with your family over a board game or
favourite meal. Intentionally decrease your electronic media use, only watch the news once
a day, don’t let your focus be consumed by the virus.
Remember and take pride in the fact that you are part of an essential, professional service,
and you are prized and valued because of your skills, ability, knowledge and courage.
Finally and by no means least of all, thank you... for your service, your character, and your
willingness to show up in these difficult times. You know who you are... I am very proud to
stand with you.”
In Australia we are cautiously optimistic that we are coming through this crisis relatively
unscathed. The latest daily update from the Department of Health is hugely encouraging.
There are now only 1600 active cases across the country and new cases each day are only
increasing by about 0.2 percent. Three out of four people who have tested positive for
COVID-19 in Australia have now recovered.
It is true that we are doing better than so many other countries but we can’t get complacent.
Last week, in my state of New South Wales, we had our first paramedic diagnosed with
COVID-19. This has heightened the anxiety and
concerns amongst our colleagues once again. We are worried for our friend, we are worried
for our families.
This pandemic has a long way to run but we are thankful we stand together in this time of
trial. The ambulance family is strong and will remain strong, no matter where we live and
where we serve. From the ambulance family in Australia to our Scandinavian colleagues -
we are all in this together and together we will survive!