Lessons From The Pandemic

Source: insights.com.yale.edu

Over the last decade, medical education has included a technique called “simulation”, which involves learners engaged in the management of critical situations that are only simulated, involving actors and remotely controlled equipment that creates the emergency.

The learners experience the situation in very seemingly real circumstances, feeling the urgency, developing a situational awareness, learning how to deal with the real situation, and getting feedback on performance.

One step further is taking this out of the lab into the real life location, like an operating room suite.  This in situ simulation not only allows the participants to experience and to learn to manage in their home base, but it allows for an analysis of how well the workplace was able to deal with the impact of the stress of such an event.

Things like the location of the cardiac arrest cart, the amount of time it takes blood to come from the blood bank, the adequacy of the types of drugs and equipment in the operating room are scrutinized to see if anything needs to change to make things work better.  It is the feedback and the reflection after the exercise is over that really makes for an impactful learning experience.

Unfortunately, there was no simulated pandemic exercise.  There were steps to be prepared, but complacency in the times before the pandemic led to a lack of preparedness; but even if all had been as ready as possible, little could have been done to deal with how fast, contagious and dangerous coronavirus is.

The whole world is relying on in-the-moment data and decisions based on that data to mitigate the devastating effects of this pandemic.  It is amazing to see how fast a mainly cooperative world overcomes the challenges of fighting fatal disease.

The pandemic has strained the system just as an in situ simulation exercise, but in a real and deadly way.  From our reflections and feedback, we see that Canada has severe shortcomings in the care of the elderly.

Elderly patients should not have to be thought of as placement problems who are burdens on society or depersonalized statistics allocated to random rooms in long term care homes.

It is odd that in the past, the elderly were respected for the wisdom they held; with the speedy development and accumulation of knowledge electronically, we have forgotten that wisdom is not so speedy and is not found in Wikipedia or through Google.

At the very least, the elderly have regained some respect and love. Paul recognizes being fully grown, mature, as a step to true wisdom.

 “Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish.  But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.”  (1 Corinthians 2: 6-7)

Did it take a pandemic shutdown to realize how beautiful a blue sky can be?  Do they really want to go back to the level of pollution in Delhi so that they lose that view?  The pandemic has caused us to remember the value of outdoors, of solitude, of not having to rush somewhere.  The pandemic reminds of the role we have of stewardship.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.”  (Genesis 2: 15)

The pandemic has stressed systems, infrastructure we thought was adequate, and businesses.  It has revealed weaknesses in our society, making us consider everything from disaster preparedness to guaranteed minimum income and sick days.

We in Newfoundland and Labrador are financially broken with the collapse of the oil industry, as well as from the effects of social distancing and self-isolation on fishing boats, fish plants and a very important tourism industry.

Two positive things have happened.  The first is the strong sense of community that was built throughout Canada, where our politicians of all parties, and our scientists, demonstrated cooperation and focus, and modelled for us being together, though physically apart.

The second is putting everything on the table. There isn’t anything that won’t be changing from the COVID-19 pandemic.

So what happens to church after the stress she has felt from the pandemic? How do we gather?  How do we celebrate in song? How do Catholics adapt to the risks of being physically present to each other as we acknowledge the physical presence of God in the Eucharist? Maybe what’s happened is our chance to become better.

Is this dangerous crisis the needed opportunity to reflect, to re-examine, and to accept and embrace necessary change?  What are the roles of the internet, and social media, and meeting apps in communicating our messages?  Is Mass in a church our only legitimate way to gather?

The feast of Saints Peter and Paul recalls the complementary differences between the two – Peter establishing the continuity of the church with its Judaic past, and Paul working at the cutting edge of the church, helping to define Christianity in the context of the Gentile world he lived and worked in.

The Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church spoke of the ecclesia sancta simul et semper purificanda, ‘at the same time holy and always in need of being purified’ (Lumen Gentium 1965:§ 8).  It recognized the need for reform to find purity.

This quote from Living Space says it all:http://(https://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/f0629r/)

“If the Church is to remain relevant, if it is to continue speaking in a meaningful way to our rapidly changing world, if it is to keep up with the new knowledge and ideas which change our ways of understanding the world in which we live, it has to renew itself
in the way it expresses its message,
in the way it structures itself,
in the way it communicates its message,
in the way it dialogues with the world.
The world may not like what the Church has to say but it should be able to understand it and be stimulated by it.” 



Dr. Michael Bautista is a physician practising in St. John's and is the recipient of the 2015 Ignatian Spirit Award from St. Bonaventure's. He is also the Chair of the Discipline of Anesthesia at Memorial University. and an associate professor of Medicine.

  • graeme quinlan
    Posted at 07:25h, 03 August Reply

    In reading through this letter I was bought to the realization of yes , just how much we have been able to learn from this extraordinary event in our lives.The Health care system, The Political system The Church System. everything has had to undergo huge changes in order to survive. But most importantly it is us the people who make up the populous .we have had to undergo incredulous challenges to our lives,make so many changes make so many alterations to the way we live. But narrowing this down to the face of our Eucharistic participation has been the most difficult for so many.Yet we are surviving, not because of circumstances but because of Love and Desire. We have had to accept that our Churches are no longer full, but the small number that are able to attend still manage to keep the same Spirit Alive, and this is what keeps the body of Christ alive in our midst. The Church has always faced challenges, and it always will. Just like this most recent dictate from our government. We are now under lock down, we cannot attend any Masses for the foreseable future. But our Faith will see us through this.

  • Katherine Arbuthnott
    Posted at 09:46h, 03 August Reply

    Thanks you so much for your knowledge and reflection. Early in the pandemic I started a daily ‘pandemic diary’ both to help ground myself, and to take advantage of the reflection this time brings us. One of my early entries mused on the pandemic as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the changes we need to make in response to climate change – resting on our deep connections to each other, bringing all our skills and divergent opinions to the table in order to face a changing reality while keeping, perhaps even enhancing, our joy in the world. It is wonderful to get glimpses of companions on that same path.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 11:12h, 03 August Reply

    Thank you very much Mike!

  • Jim Radde
    Posted at 12:56h, 03 August Reply

    Thank you for highlighting the positive things happening during
    the pandemic

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