Many of us entered education because we have a passion for positively impacting the future of our profession, we love what we do. My work is my passion, the interaction that I have with my students makes every day rewarding. However, social isolation has been impacting me deeply and affecting my morale and it becomes a struggle sometimes to demonstrate the enthusiasm that came so naturally before. It’s more important now than ever before to support our faculty coworkers during Covid and these difficult times.
The impact of social isolation
Social isolation can cause a myriad of issues that are bigger than just dissatisfaction with our current role or circumstance. Depression and substance abuse are on the rise within the United States. Many nursing instructors are working to inspire and support their students that have been and are currently being impacted by the pandemic, either with the effects of the illness itself or the social isolation. This takes a huge emotional toll on the instructor - they need to know that they are still part of a community and all their contributions are appreciated. Teamwork is needed now more than ever! I have watched some of the most empathetic and inspiring nursing faculty falter and become dissatisfied during this trying time. Many of them have voiced that they just need to feel like part of a team again. This theme is common in many other professions as well and should not be overlooked.
Reaching out to fellow nursing faculty
So, you may be asking how can I support my coworkers? The answer in many cases is simpler than you might imagine, just let them know you are there for them. Reach out and talk about what is going on in your lives, allow your team to have a chance to just be heard. Many people are very sick of online meetings, but an old-fashioned phone call can be very effective. Our culture at times turns to the newest means of communication and the online forums as the solution to social interaction. While these applications are valuable tools that have gotten us through this challenging time, people are beginning to dread logging in to yet another meeting on another conferencing platform. I have found that picking up a phone and making a call to converse one-on-one can make a difference - some individuals answer and say things like, “it is so good to talk to you!”
Tackling isolation as a team
Everyone on the team needs to make an effort to be part of the team. One idea is to block off some time every day to talk to someone. Pick someone that you know needs to hear from a friendly voice or someone that you have not spoken to in a while. This change in communication especially means a lot coming from leadership. So, if you are in a leadership position or thought of as a leader in your institution try calling your faculty and encourage those around you to do the same. When the leaders pick up the phone just to check in or to praise a job well done it can boost the team’s morale. As a leader, I have been implementing this and I've found it's making a huge difference in my job satisfaction - every call ends on a happy note, even if it didn’t start on one.
If, as a team, we tackle the social isolation we will each be better off and more effective in our roles. We can rediscover our love for education and support our communities. Our students need us energized and mentally healthy more than ever. When academia works to encourage our communities, we create more resilient students. So, try picking up the phone - you might be surprised how welcoming your colleagues will be, and they may even thank you for not scheduling another virtual meeting.