Well before the coronavirus hit the U.S., several states were experiencing severe nurse shortages. Now, overworked, underpaid, and under-resourced, nurses of all types (RN, LPN, ADN, BSN, MSN, NP, DNP, APRN, CRNA) are on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis. Is this the final wakeup call that will bring needed supports to the nursing profession?
Many nurses have treated patients despite a lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Due to shortages, they were required to reuse masks, face shields, shoe covers and gowns, putting themselves, their patients and their families at risk. At some facilities nurses had to improvise by making their own PPE if none existed. Garbage bags were fashioned into gowns. Ski goggle were used for eye protection. Without adequate protection, nurses are terrified for their lives.
Nurses struggle with how to protect their families. They wonder if they are potentially causing harm to their family by coming home from work every day. They end up constantly trying to balance an equation that does not shortchange the needs of their patients or those of their loved ones.
Childcare is an important issue for some nurses. Nurse work hours have been put on overdrive at the same time children have been sent home because schools and day care have closed. Any sort of childcare solution would involve people coming and going into other people’s homes, directly contradicting the practices of social distancing. Add on to this the compounded risk of working with kids living with a nurse who treats coronavirus patients. Nurses are hard pressed to solve their childcare issues.
The mental, emotional and physical toll on nurses is immense. In addition to fearing for the safety of themselves and their family, many feel exhaustion from long shifts, that they can’t do enough for their patients, and a deep sadness for their dying patients.
Stressed to the breaking point, many nurses are likely to leave their position. Perhaps this crisis will be the necessary catalyst for change. Nurses play a critical role in healthcare and there is much that can be done to help them. There must be a massive effort to increase the available nursing education programs. The wellbeing of nurses also needs to be a priority; full recognition of the inherent stresses and emotional strains that nurses bear on behalf of society is imperative. In addition, nurses must be recognized for their leadership and innovations in healthcare.
Small gestures can make a difference, too. Companies and individuals have responded in ways that offer hope to nurses. The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) has launched “Hospitality for Hope” to provide nurses and other healthcare workers with hotel rooms so they do not have to go home each night with worry of infecting loved ones. Apps have been created to allow citizens to send food to the front lines. Boys and Girls Clubs across the country are providing emergency childcare to nurses and other healthcare workers who need a safe place for their children while they fight on the front lines. Sites have popped up to facilitate donating to the efforts of getting nurses the PPE they deserve as well as freebies.
There are many ways to help. Providing nurses with hope right now is an important step in the right direction. Perhaps the small moments of hope can give nurse the drive to continue until real change can happen.
Kathy Lin, Marketing Communications Manager
Kathy writes content for Tal Healthcare, a healthcare career website. She has a background in recruiting, sales, and teaching. She holds a BA in Biology from the University of Vermont. When she isn’t writing you can find her outside running, skiing or biking.