James M. Berklan

Out of adversity, opportunity is born. If somebody famous hasn’t said that already, they should.

I recommend such an outlook for anyone trying to weather the novel coronavirus pandemic. That is to say, all of us — but especially anyone in long-term care.

If you are a nursing home worker, you already know the score: You are in the industry associated with the first U.S. outbreak and mass deaths related to COVID-19. It’s not an enviable position, even if the deck was stacked against you and your vulnerable population.

Worse, there is blood in the water and a few waves of pirañas have already come for you. Expect many more.

One good example is last weekend’s New York Times report that recycled some previous gripes and then freshened them with unflattering statistics it correlated to COVID-19. You may be able to fight off attacks like that once, but when they return amid the health crisis of the century, it is a very tough environment to operate in. 

Never mind that even the best nursing homes would be nearly perfect staging grounds for a devastating virus like COVID-19 to rage. (Indeed, the one at the epicenter of the outbreak was last rated 5 stars by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rating system.)  

Your job is to take care of the most fragile population in the country. That means there will be more carnage, both within AND outside your walls when it comes to coronavirus. For that, you have nothing to apologize for. On the contrary. Many can take pride in the job they’ve done so far to keep so many people out of harm’s way.

While others might be fleeing to their country hideaways or the toilet paper aisle at the nearest convenience store, you remain to take care of the nation’s needy and elderly during this crisis of epic proportions.

What comes next, no one really knows. Except that just about any lobbying edge that nursing homes might have gained in recent years is slipping fast, if not gone already. America has become obsessed with a bullying, take-no-prisoners facade and that does not bode well. 


Unless long-term care can close ranks like it never has before. Practice perfect infection control techniques. Hope the experts see and give credit for your truly outstanding work. That would mean not allowing major protocol breaches, and hoping that no onerous outside influences — microscopic or oversized — come knocking.

Because out of adversity, opportunity is born.

That’s why I believe — like the Ed Harris character near the end of the movie “Apollo 13” — that this ultimately can bring a time of pride. It will be impossible to win over every critic, but providers do have an opportunity to get up off the mat — rise from the ashes, if you will. Calmly impress with an unassailable caregiving record, and remind everyone that even when you are doing your job well with such susceptible clientele, undesirable things may happen.

A resurgence won’t occur by accident, and it might not ever happen for some.

But it can safely be said that the opportunity to make new believers has never been better.

Follow James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.