As a graduate nursing student working actively during the pandemic, as well as being an international student who had been faced with immigration threat in the past, and especially with a family living on the other side of the world, I have been struggling to maintain my mental health.
When the lockdown began early last year, as a graduate nursing student I felt helpless and inadequate. We were pulled out of clinicals abruptly, and our clinical and didactic training were transferred to online means. We were learning all kinds of nursing interventions that are relevant for COVID-19 patients, and yet we were not doing anything.
I started researching ways to help the community, especially those who were directly impacted by the COVID pandemic. Through that effort, I found an opportunity to volunteer with the Medical Reserve Corps to help run one of the first COVID-19 drive-thru testing sites in DC. I got to work with and learn from not only nurses and other medical students, but also other non-medical personnel who stepped up to help in any way that they can, such as traffic control and other administrative tasks. Through this experience, I got to witness not only the undeniable fear and anxiety, but also togetherness, strength and hope. Although this pandemic seems to bring up a sense of suspicion and mistrust amongst the people, it also highlights the best of people. I learned that if we remain hopeful and optimistic, we can get over our fear and channel it into action. Especially in a global pandemic, I know we can’t do it alone, and we can only do it together.
I realized that being able to go outside and help the community is an incredible privilege. During the quarantine, the hardest moment personally is to sit with my own fear, uncertainty and helplessness, especially when I am alone. I can’t help but think of people who live independently, especially the elderly and international student population, whose family either lives across the country or can’t be around. How do they feel during those moments of isolation?
For me, music has always been my source of comfort and refuge. In April last year, I started a Zoom live music session with elderly people who live in nursing homes and/or independently to decrease their feelings of isolation and loneliness. The Zoom music initiative has given me a community of musicians, older people, younger people and everyone else from different backgrounds weaved together for an hour a week through music. What started as an initiative in New York expanded to connecting with other elderly and musicians in San Francisco, Brazil, Miami and London. We shared stories and tips to each other on how to keep going through this challenging time, and remind each other that we are not alone.