1. Baker, Kathy A. PhD, APRN, ACNS-BC, FCNS, FAAN

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Reflecting back on 2020 is no simple task. I have certainly experienced memorable years in my life, some for wonderful reasons and others because of difficulty or heartache. But this is the first time I have collectively faced experiences that are mutually shared with others; in fact, globally shared, to such a degree that history will record many of these common experiences for future generations to ponder and study.

Kathy A. Baker, PhD,... - Click to enlarge in new windowKathy A. Baker, PhD, APRN, ACNS-BC, FCNS, FAAN

Beginning 2020 with the news of a serious viral outbreak in China certainly caught my attention as a nurse, but I had no idea of how that initial announcement would drastically change the way I live and experience my life. Nor did I understand how quickly life would change. Within just weeks, ordinary household products such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and bleach wipes were suddenly unavailable due to panicked citizens hoarding supplies for their personal use. Personal protective equipment (PPE), so familiar to us in the endoscopy setting, suddenly became the norm for every venture outside of the home. In the healthcare setting, elective procedures were mandated to cease so that all medical personnel could be focused on supporting the overwhelming healthcare needs of critically ill patients suddenly infected with the COVID-19 virus and flooding our hospital settings.


Schools and non-essential work settings were closed. Many of you had to make heart wrenching decisions to distance yourself from family and friends during the storm of the pandemic until scientists could determine how best to prevent the rampant spread of COVID-19. Working in a healthcare setting was just too risky to expose others who normally would be around you. For many people, income suddenly stopped. Anxiety and depression emerged. Isolation became the societal norm.


But nurses-we just adapted. Like we always do. We filled the gap. We made the difference. And we are still there at the end of 2020, watching the COVID case count increase again, as we push through holidays that were meant for laughter, merriment, friends, and family. But in this year, 2020, holidays are different. Our workday is different. We do our best to hold it all together, but we are not in control. We are in response; response to a healthcare crisis that has overtaken the world. And while we are slowly making progress towards developing a vaccine to overcome this scourge, the timeline is still unknown. The future is not yet predictable. There is not yet an end in sight.


Our professional organization, Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA), was definitely affected. Suddenly, our annual course in Louisville, Kentucky was impacted by the pandemic. The Board of Directors and staff were faced with monumental decisions of how to keep the organization financially solvent, support our members who more than ever were being asked to give and sacrifice in their work settings, and quickly adapt to the changes that were evolving faster than could be processed. Leadership was faced with the responsibility of making decisions without any insight into how the future would evolve, how SGNA members and vendors would respond, what was most needed to support members, and for how long would the organization need to adapt-six months, through the end of the year, or even longer?


Well, the decisions were made, and the leadership and staff pushed on. Our members and vendors stayed committed. And on the last weekend of October, we held our first virtual annual course. SGNA members and vendors made things happen. Attendance was impressive. SGNA staff and leadership efforts rewarded our members with fabulous speakers who fed our minds with outstanding presentations that focused on the uniqueness of our specialty and created excitement for the promise of more to come post-pandemic. Fascinating procedures, evidence-based practices, sharing in online chatrooms with other attendees. . . the annual course was a unifying experience that we all needed to remind us that 2020, while part of our history, is not to be our forever future.


Oh, undoubtedly, we will be wrestling with COVID-19 for many months to come. Our carefree lives relative to the spread of this aggressive virus may never return to that of pre-2020. But we will push on. We will continue to provide care, fill the gaps, make a difference, and be there for each other. That's what we do and who we are. And that is why our organization exists. We are united as gastroenterology nurses and associates. Through SGNA, we give to each other. We learn, we lead, and we serve. While most of us never anticipated that 2020 would be a year like we have experienced, we were still here for each other. And we will be here no matter what. Here's to a better 2021, SGNA. We've got this.