COVID-19: What Nurses on the Front Lines are Experiencing During this Pandemic
While millions of people are currently staying home and practicing self-distancing to prevent further spread of COVID-19, nurses are in the thick of everything. While being a nurse is never an easy job, it’s particularly challenging during our current world health crisis.
Unfortunately, with the unique challenges presented by the virus, and by providing essential care to those in need, nurse health and safety is being directly impacted in a big way. In fact, as of March 17th, dozens of healthcare workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and even more have been exposed.
Understandably, nurses are concerned right now. Bonnie Castillo, National Nurses United (NNU) executive director stated the following recently on March 10th
“If nurses and health care workers aren’t protected, that means patients and the public are not protected. This is a major public health crisis of unknown proportions. Now is not the time to be weakening our standards and protections, or cutting corners. Now is the time we should be stepping up our efforts.”
Now, what exactly is she referring to? Here’s a glimpse of the problems nurses are facing right now in hospitals across the U.S.:
● Not Enough Supplies – Supplies are being used faster than ever before, currently. Gloves, masks, gowns, hand sanitizers – all of these supplies are in short demand for healthcare workers when they need them most. Health supplies are being over-purchased by the public, stolen by patients, or simply used in treating the number of patients currently overwhelming the hospitals. A recent Business Insider article documents a nurse in Seattle, Maeleigh Soper, who states the hospital she works in has used up a month’s worth of these supplies in a mere three days. Please write to your congress member to release PPE today.
See CDC guideline is still advising PPE is necessary but their contingency plans include using handkerchiefs as a form of protection, this is unacceptable! The only thing we can do is get involved in the petitions. To read more on CDC guidelines for facemasks, click here.
● Test Shortages – Simply put – tests are not readily available where they’re needed. CNN reports that Roche Diagnostics Corporation is trying to manufacture tests as quickly as possible, distributing roughly 400,000 tests each week across the U.S. to various labs. Currently, however, the supply isn’t keeping pace with the demand – not by a long shot. Scott Becker, CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, told CNN, “I’m really concerned that we are not going to have the capabilities to test those who really need and should get a test.”
The first US company to announce at home COVID-19 tests is EverlyWell. Check them out and stay tuned for more information.
● Exhaustion – With the overwhelming of hospitals and healthcare facilities, nurses are being asked to work shift upon shift upon shift; They are tired, overworked, short-staffed, and stressed out.
● Lack of Protocol – Perhaps one of the most concerning trends currently is the lack of protocol in procedures. A story detailed on Business Insider is cause for alarm.
“Nurses described feeling frustrated at the lack of coordination from hospitals and the government over proper protocol
Monica, a registered nurse who works in a rural hospital in Washington state, identified four patients last week who she thought should have been tested for COVID-19. (Business Insider confirmed Monica’s identity before publishing this article).
But due to confusion from the state’s Department of Health and hospital providers, none received a test.”
These problems leave nurses and healthcare workers around the country reeling and placed in situations where they’re having to choose between protecting themselves and helping sick patients. California RN, Marcia Santini, told Business Insider ominously and accurately, “We need to keep our health care workers healthy, and if they get sick, that would collapse the health care system.”
A recent NNU article on the subject states,
“Many hospitals and healthcare facilities have failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment to nurses working with COVID-19 patients. Some facilities are telling nurses to continue to work while asymptomatic, even though they’ve been exposed to the virus and might be contagious. Testing at hospitals has been sporadic.”
The article continues further by quoting a Kaiser RN in Roseville, CA, Cathy Kennedy,
“We follow the precautionary principle, which means we shouldn’t wait for harm to occur before we take action to protect people’s health.”
During this pandemic, nurses and other healthcare workers are expected to step-up and provide care and support for those in need, and to keep the public safe; But, nurses expect the same courtesy and are demanding better response and support. On March 12th, thousands of nurses joined in on a call to do just this – demanding better action from hospitals and the CDC. You can listen to the call here.
AACN has published an educational resource for nurses to follow with webinars and instructions on how and when to treat patients at each level of severity. Follow their updates here.
In conclusion, we’d like to sign off by praising nurses everywhere for risking their lives to save the lives of others. We see you, and we’re grateful.
● NNU, Recording of National Nurses United COVID-19 Update Call Available on Website
● CNN, Severe shortages of swabs and other supplies hamper coronavirus testing
● Washington Post, Covid-19 hits doctors, nurses and EMTs, threatening health system
● National Nurses United, As CDC further weakens COVID-19 guidance, nurses outraged by failed federal, state, local, employer efforts stage day of action Wednesday to demand protections for nurses, patients, public
● National Nurses United, National Nurses United Response to COVID-19
● MSN/Business Insider, For Nurses, a Bad Situation has Gotten Worse
● Time Magazine, The First U.S. Company Has Announced an Upcoming Home COVID-19 Test
●ANA RN Action, Tell Congress to increase personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution now
●AACN Blog, COVID-19: Top 5 AACN Clinical Education Resources for You from AACN
●CDC, Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of Facemasks
●Change.org, US Physicians/Healthcare Workers For Personal Protective Equipment in COVID-19 Pandemic