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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Gratitude, Kindness, And Joy: A Light Out of The Pandemic

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By Gary Evans, Medical Writer

With more than 80% of counties in the United States reporting “low” COVID-19 transmission levels as this report was filed, the pandemic has slowed to a still point. Infection preventionists reflect on the damage done and the work that remains.

A few bold voices are saying the only way out is up: This is the time — indeed, this is exactly the right time — for IPs to reclaim their work with a proposal that may lead to finding some actual “joy” in protecting patients and colleagues from infections.

“At this point you might be asking yourself is this really even possible in infection prevention?” said Heather Gilmartin, PhD, NP, CIC, a former IP who is now a research scientist for the VA health System. “The organizational and societal challenges can seem overwhelming. Every day you wake up to something new in the paper and think, how do we start? But the answer is 'yes,' there is joy to be found in infection prevention.”

Gilmartin spoke at a recent webinar held by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). She also coauthored a recently published paper, with veteran healthcare epidemiologist Sanjay Saint, MD, that addresses the elusive nature of joy and the intentionality necessary to manifest it.

The simple act of kindness can be challenging in times rife with anger and division, but “studies have shown that when people are kind, they have lower levels of stress hormones and feel less depressed, less lonely, and happier,” they authors emphasize.

Certainly, there is a lot of skepticism, even cynicism, to such ideas in these hard-bitten times, but why should joy be such a far-fetched idea in healthcare?

“In healthcare, caring and healing are naturally joyful activities, in addition to being intellectually, physically and emotionally demanding,” Gilmartin said. “Most of us have chosen healthcare because it brings us meaning, right? We could go work in a cubicle; we could do numbers. We don't have to interact with humans, but we've chosen to.”

For more on this story, see the next issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Gary Evans, BA, MA, has written numerous articles on infectious disease threats to both patients and healthcare workers for more than three decades. These include stories on HIV, SARS, SARS-CoV-2, pandemic influenza, MERS, Ebola, multidrug resistant bacteria and fungi, smallpox and Mpox. He has been honored for excellence in analytical reporting five times by the National Press Club in Washington, DC.