Last week, Governer Pritzker announced a state wide “shelter in place” order for Illinois. Only “essential businesses” can stay open to the public for services- banks, grocery stores, gas stations, hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies, ect. As an office manager of an outpatient mental health clinic I'm considered essential personnel but as I sit at my desk answering the phone and checking in clients who come in I think to myself, “I'm not a nurse or a therapist- should I be out of the house right now? What if I get sick? What if I make someone else sick? How am I essential?”
I image that a lot of people are feeling this way right now. Grocery clerks stocking the shelves, fast food cashiers working the drive thru, receptionists at medical clinics and hospitals watching the “professionals” take care of the sick patients around them. When there is so much going on around us, it is difficult to imagine that what we are doing is making a difference, that what we are doing is, in-fact, essential. The truth of the matter is, we are essential and for good reason.
As I schedule and cancel appointments, answer questions from concerned clients on the phone, relay messages from a clinician to a patient to their pharmacy- I am making sure that people who need assistance with their mental health care are receiving it and I'm making sure that the therapists and nurses in my office have the support they need while they do their jobs. The gas station attendants working today are making sure that our CNAs are able to gas up their vehicles to get to work tomorrow. The fast food cook is making sure the long-haul trucker delivering groceries gets warm food tonight. The bank teller is making sure that the plumber's business account has updated funds so they can buy supplies for an emergency repair.
As individuals we may look at the uncertainty that we see happening around the world and feel anxious about being away from home so we dismiss the importance of our work but we need to remember what a vital role we play. Support personnel make up a huge portion of society and help the world stay organized and on track, even in the most trying of times. When you have a thought of self-doubt, if you feel that you are “only” this or “only” that, remember that we are considered essential personnel for a reason! The work we do and our presence is very much needed especially right now. Remember to stay safe, wash your hands, keep social distance as much as possible, sanitize, disinfect, and remember- doctors, nurses, pharmacists, delivery drivers, fast food workers, grocery store cashiers, gas station attendants, and yes, receptionists, are keeping life going- we are working together to keep society together. It is challenging and it is a strange time right now but we are all essential to each other.