Instead of panicking, there are positive actionable steps to take from lessons learned that can form a firm foundation for a more effective response to future health crises.
1. Enhanced Preparation Planning
Having sufficient stockpiles of medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) keeps both nurses and the public safe. The pandemic significantly changed how the profession views PPE. When nurses found themselves in short supply of N95 masks, a mask that filters out at least 95% of particles, the public responded.
Many companies ordered N95 respirators to protect their employees during past catastrophes like the avian flu, pandemics like the swine flu, and sweeping forest fire. According to several news agencies, donations flooded in from companies like Home Depot, Apple, and Facebook. Hospitals are taking measures to ensure that this never happens again.
It is important to see the country coming together with all the supplies that health facilities received.
2. The Public Perception and Value of Nurses Increased
While certain health systems remain overtaxed, this public health crisis has evoked positive solutions in its wake. In a 2019 Gallup poll, nurses ranked No. 1 as the most honest and ethical profession. Nurses have long been one of the most highly trusted professions. There are so many positive aspects of the nursing profession, which is one of the most encouraging and self-sacrificing careers available.
However, following COVID-19, there has been a huge shift in perspective from a trustworthy job to an irreplaceable and valued one. The values at the core of nursing are proving useful during this time.
For example, certified nurse-midwives have long argued against the need for physiologic birth to occur in the hospital. During this time of COVID-19, many are seeking home birth. Patients are delaying medical procedures and eliminating interventions.
In general, clients desire a model of care with fewer interventions, much like the holistic model that nurses have extolled for centuries. This pandemic is creating a different type of respect for the nursing model.
3. Employers will Prioritize the Health and Welfare of Their Workforce
In healthcare, many nurses get points or penalties for calling in sick from work. However, with COVID-19 came mandatory sick leave policies that require the ill employee to take up to two weeks off. Employers give time off without penalty to sick healthcare workers. While nurses are working long hours, companies are taking greater steps than before to ensure that only healthy employees show up. COVID-19 has helped large health systems to create sick leave solutions that protect nurses.
While promoting physical health matters, caring for the well-rounded nurse will elevate this challenging time. Since the arrival of the novel coronavirus in the United States, nurses are describing a unique burden involving stress disorders as they navigate uncharted territory. However, many organizations are placing significant importance on protecting the mental health of the nursing population. In this time, taking care of the people who take care of the population is more important than ever before.
Caring for our caregivers is occurring across all sectors. Headspace's meditation app announced free memberships for nurses through the end of the year. Talkspace is providing free therapy to those fighting COVID-19. Spring Arbor University created guidelines on mental health and wellness during the quarantine. States like Michigan are doing their part in providing support for frontline workers with dedicated mental health professionals at the ready. Multiple other groups have created helpful technological resources during this unfamiliar time.
4. A Boom in Technology and Telehealth
Nurses are working, sacrificing, innovating, enduring, and winning this battle at great personal cost. They are demonstrating selfless dedication to their patients. Nurses hold hands and wipe tears as they sit with quarantined patients when no one else can. While high touch is essential, nurses are relying on high-tech during social distancing.
Nurses are creating video connections for laboring mothers as their families miss the birth of their baby. They are using virtual visits to create educational spaces for mental health groups. Nurses have long empowered patients to take charge of their health, but COVID-19 has created a dynamic where nurses use telehealth to care for patients. However, these patients are taking their vital signs and reporting symptoms.
COVID-19 helps nurses capture both the science and the art of nursing throughout a challenging situation.
5. Clear Communication in Healthcare
With the landscape surrounding the coronavirus changing day by day, it is easy to feel out of the loop with administration and politics. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services noted that from the hospital’s front lines, the government, regulation boards, and hospitals are constantly changing policies.
However, to overcome the information overload, community officials and health facilities came together. Many organizations formed task forces to create clear guidelines to best support communities and ensure correct information spread through communities. Improvement in healthcare is achieving momentum throughout the community.
Now is the ideal time to be a change agent while the public eye is on healthcare. It takes time to tackle constructive change in nursing. Nursing care remains constant throughout any public health emergency. Prioritizing keeping nurses safe will lead to better health outcomes. Beyond hospital policy change, it is essential to implement widespread policies to boost cooperation from the government.
With this global pandemic, hospitals and the public now understand the vital role nurses provide. With an eye to the future and a goal of improving healthcare delivery, sweeping policy changes can improve nursing care.
COVID-19 exposed weaknesses in how our healthcare system utilizes and cares for nurses. However, much has been learned. During this time of conflict, companies and citizens came together to correct healthcare systems for the better. The nation must continue to collaborate to improve outcomes in the face of a global pandemic. If we come together as a profession and a country, we can fix these vulnerabilities and create a brighter future.
The Flu season is approaching, and COVID-19 is here in the form of an official global pandemic. When reading article after article expressing distress over an unprepared and overloaded health system, it is easy to get overwhelmed. While this public health crisis has revealed weaknesses in our health system’s foundation, we must look to the future.