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COVID-19: Pharmacists, Nurses, Health Care Workers And Retail Staff Deserve Better

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

Front-Line Workers Are Doing The Absolute Best They Can


Why Freak Out?

Over the last week or so, I've found myself growing increasingly frustrated at times with how people are treating those in health care and those who are working retail.

This is not to say I haven't been impressed with the good I've seen and heard going on in the world in this COVID-19 world, such as those stepping up to help out the elderly or the vulnerable when and how they can. There's been a whole lot of good happening on those counts, and it is something for which we should all be proud. There are people offering to pick up groceries for each other, some offering child care for those who can't not work, and tips popping up online for those looking for very specific items that they need but don't really want to - or can't, for any one of a number of reasons - go to the store for.

Then there are those who think it's time to resort to the lowest common denominator of behavior; those who think that they are the only ones who exist in the world and if things don't go their way, the rest of the world will pay for it.

I have friends who work as nurses and friends who work as pharmacists. I also know quite a few cashiers, and ever since the COVID-19 crisis has erupted, these are individuals who have been busting their butts, trying to serve people in the best way possible. How have some thanked them for their efforts? With snark and in some cases aggression.

I was told that some stores are actually contemplating extra security, likely to ensure hot ticket items such as toilet paper don't go missing, but also because people have been jerks to employees lately. One cashier told me that a customer got so agitated when she found out she couldn't leave with six packages of tissues that she actually threw a box at the cashier. A nursing friend said there was an individual who seemingly did not even attempt to understand that visitors to the nursing home in which they work were being screened in order to minimize exposure to the residents to COVID-19; instead, this individual believed that people were being screened because COVID-19 did exist in the nursing home and therefore, the virus' existence was somehow being kept secret from everyone.

A friend who's a pharmacist is anticipating some chaos at her store because people have been restocking their prescriptions where possible due to the potential for a full lockdown, and this has resulted in a struggle to track down some medications. Given hers is not the only store in Canada, she figures other pharmacies are in the same situation as she is now finding herself and anticipates that the end result will be concern and worry as she tries to explain the situation to potentially-agitated customers.

Supply and demand can be a beautiful thing - let's face it, it's the backbone of many a capitalist society - but when demand exceeds supply in the short term because everyone is overstocking their homes, people don't always understand that, and the front line - the nurses, the pharmacists and the retail workers - end up taking the brunt of it.

These are very trying times right now, and everyone's stress level is super high. Many of us have children who either have questions because of what's happening in the world right now or they are worried because they are currently out of their routines and perhaps their parents are in one of those professions that are coming under fire at the front end of this pandemic. These kids are watching our moves and learning from us about how to deal with high-stress situations.

Acting rudely to people - particularly those who are ultimately there to help us get through this extraordinary situation - is not going to help anyone, and will ultimately make you look stupid. We need to work together to get through this and not tear each other apart. I realize that for some, an initial stress response is anger - I've been there myself - but very frequently, before it gets that far, I try very hard to either walk from the situation that is causing the problem or I keep my mouth shut. Anger really helps no one, and you end up feeling badly later.

We have to think before we act, people, and realize for those working on the front end of this pandemic, there's quite a bit that's well beyond their control. They don't need us snapping and snarling because they can't magic up a package of sanitizer, but they do need our compassion and support. Their risk of being exposed to this virus is quite a bit higher for them than it is anyone else, and yelling at them or just being a jerk doesn't help and only fuels their own stress, which is undoubtedly as high, if not higher, than everyone else's right now.

Kill them with kindness.

The world needs a whole lot more of that, especially now.