Honoring the Dead in COVID-19 to Advance Care

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Whether struck by her boldness or the unorthodox nature of her request at the time, everyone did, including Jonathan Bartels, RN, now a palliative care liaison nurse at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville.

And with that, The Pause was born.

“The prayer just didn’t feed me,” Bartels told Medscape Medical News. “They weren’t my words; I wasn’t necessarily of the same belief system,” he said.

“So I looked at what the chaplain was doing and thought, ‘I’m going to do something, but I’m going to do it a little differently’.

The opportunity came shortly after, when a young woman struck by a vehicle was wheeled into the trauma bay. Thirty heart-wrenching minutes later, she died.

That’s when Bartels saw the opportunity to speak up. “I said, ‘before we leave, would you all mind if we took a moment of silence to honor this person in the bed, honor the life that’s been lived, and honor our own efforts to help her?'”

It proved to be a life-changing moment for Bartels, and jump-started a movement that is now practiced around the world.


Three Million Infections

To date, there have been 3 million cases of COVID-19 around the globe, and more than 200,000 deaths. The United States has been the hardest hit, by far, with more than 990,000 cases and more than 55,700 deaths. In contrast, Spain — the country with the next-highest number of cases — has had more than 75% fewer cases and less than half the deaths.

With the death toll rising, frazzled healthcare professionals of all stripes have found themselves searching for some way to honor the dead, particularly in an age when so many people are dying alone. The Pause gives them a way to remember the sacred gift of life that has been taken from each and every victim of the pandemic.

Medscape’s In Memoriam page is tracking the healthcare workers who have died from COVID-19.

Yet the profound effects of the moment of silence and reflection extend well beyond respecting the dead. For many clinicians and institutions, The Pause — and its many permutations — is a way to reconnect with their own humanity.

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