While health experts and civic leaders are encouraging the public to practice social distancing, and many are now working from home, nurses and other frontline healthcare workers put their lives at risk every day going to work in hospitals and medical facilities to care for patients with COVID-19. Even nurses who are not directly caring for patients with the virus risk exposure to the contagion in their workplace.
Although nurses have been using personal protective equipment (PPE) as much as possible since the start of the pandemic, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) reported on June 3, 2020 that more than 600 nurses have died from the virus and more than 230,000 healthcare workers have contracted the illness worldwide. These sobering statistics reveal that nurses are working in a more dangerous and stressful time than ever. To navigate this difficult period, nurses can use the following COVID-19 resource links in the discussion below.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) Enterprise has established an extensive COVID-19 resource site online for nurses. These resources cover the following topics.
Information for Clinical Practice
The most identifiable environment where the pandemic is affecting nurses is in their clinical practice settings. Nurses understandably have many concerns about the coronavirus as the pandemic evolves, and they want to know how to keep patients, themselves and others they come into contact with safe, including their families.
Information about COVID-19 in clinical areas including disease signs and symptoms, transmission, incubation period, pandemic preparedness, early virus identification and prompt notification of those exposed to someone with the virus are critical. Additionally, knowing the isolation requirements and when to enforce isolation, quarantine, ongoing monitoring, and hospitalization are key when caring for patients.
Infection Control and Prevention
Nurses also require detailed and up-to-date information about how those infected are transmitting the virus, as well as the most current research about prevention measures. Because personal protective equipment (PPE) is critical for the safety of nurses and healthcare workers, PPE shortages and ways to optimize and monitor usage of these essential supplies is a primary concern for nurses in this pandemic. Healthcare staff also need to know how to correctly apply and remove their respirator and other PPE to ensure they have adequate protection. Ensuring a respirator fits correctly is key to protecting against the virus.
Infection control and prevention are also important during the admittance or transportation of potentially infected patients. Collecting, handling and testing specimens from patients suspected to have COVID-19 also requires extra care.
The public has many questions and concerns about the pandemic; people are looking for accurate information they can trust. One of a nurse's roles is to educate patients and their families about health and illness prevention. The ANA Enterprise provides detailed information and links to patient education resources regarding what those who are sick and suspect they have the virus should do. Those who do not have COVID-19 but need to see a healthcare professional need guidance in these times, as well. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) also provide a number of patient education resources that nurses can download, print and give to patients about these and other topics, such as how to disinfect the home if a family member is sick.
Mental Health Support for Nurses
The scope and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on nurses' mental health. In addition to caring for patients and families devastated by the pandemic, nurses are also dealing with their own anxiety, uncertainty and fear. The ANA has identified the following resources to help nurses through this emotionally difficult time:
- Nurses Together: Connecting Through Conversations – These one-hour volunteer-led sessions provided by the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) seven days a week provide a safe place for nursing professionals to discuss their feelings and concerns about COVID-19 with peers who will listen and offer support.
- Moodfit mobile app – Encourages nurses to set and track their progress toward personal wellness goals regarding sleep, exercise, mindfulness and nutrition.
- Happy app – A one-on-one support line available 24/7 where nurses can talk with Support Givers who will listen without judgment. The first call is complimentary for nurses, thanks to the American Nurses Foundation.
- Narrative Expressive Writing – Some nurses find it helpful to participate in writing programs to work through distress related to COVID-19.
Frontline nurses are facing unprecedented stress and danger as they work to serve and care for patients during the coronavirus pandemic. Providing these selfless professionals with the tools and resources they need to take care of themselves and others is essential as we work through this crisis.
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