Reflecting On The Impact of Nurses in a Post COVID-19 Era
As we slowly start to emerge from a year like no other, nothing feels quite the same. For many, COVID-19 has completely changed people’s outlook on their health, their lives, and their social connections. We’ve known loss and grief on a worldwide scale and it’s not unusual to see people’s lifestyle and priorities shift alongside this historic change.
Nursing care is now a daily topic of conversation as people scramble to find skilled care for their loved ones or for themselves. Lucky for us, as the consequences of COVID-19 continue, nurses around the world are stepping up.
For International Nurses Day, we want to highlight these healthcare heroes for their tireless contribution during the pandemic and reflect on the impact of nurses in a post-COVID era.
Why is International Nurses Day important?
May 12 marks International Nurses Day, where all nurses are celebrated for their invaluable service to humanity and the health sector. It’s no coincidence that it falls on the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth—the founder of modern nursing. It aims to honor and appreciate nurses for all their hard work and essential contributions to the medical field, while raising awareness about nursing as a profession.
COVID-19 has impacted all of us, but especially nurses are on the frontline. This International Nurses Day, let’s look at some ways nurses have risen to the challenge and what’s in store for nursing care and in–home medical care post-COVID.
Why nurses play a role in COVID-19 vaccine administration
Immunization against preventable illness and disease has revolutionized global health. In the last 100 years, vaccinations have dramatically extended life expectancy and all but eliminated deadly diseases like polio and smallpox.
But nothing prepared the world for COVID-19, an airborne virus that has ripped through families, communities, and entire countries since 2020. Luckily, we had strong, compassionate nurses ready and waiting to vaccinate entire populations against this pervasive virus.
According to the New York Times, over 1.24 billion vaccine doses have been administered by healthcare professionals worldwide, with nurses prioritizing seniors and frontline workers for the moment.
In Canada, even retired nurses and employed nursing students are joining the frontline in the fight against COVID-19. Their training makes them the perfect choice for vaccine administration. Jo O’Callaghan, a retired nurse who has previously worked in war zones sees it as just another fight.
“I’ve dashed off to all kinds of parts of the world to help in disaster situations and conflict situations, and here I am sitting at home… and now it’s time for me to do something here.”
What nurses can do to support patients with long COVID
If you’re thinking, what exactly is ‘long COVID?’ you’re not alone. Long COVID is a recent and little-known health issue we’re just starting to figure out.
Most people who contract COVID-19 experience symptoms for up to two weeks, with some reporting feeling ill for up to 6 weeks before recovering. However, there are a small number of people who report symptoms like fever, headaches, loss of smell or taste, and extreme fatigue weeks or months after being diagnosed. People are calling this phenomenon long COVID, and researchers and scientists remain puzzled.
According to an Italian study of 143 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 87.4% of patients said that after two months out of the hospital, they still had at least one persisting symptom of COVID-19, particularly fatigue and shortness of breath.
Although healthcare professionals don’t know the full impact of this side effect, it’s becoming likely that patients with long COVID may require in-home medical care and nursing care. Nurses specializing in-home medical care can monitor a patients’ symptoms, manage any medication they require, and support their prescribed care plan.
How nurses navigate palliative care and end-of-life care
Nurses wear many hats. They do everything from detailed recording, to team collaboration and operating medical equipment. But perhaps the most important role of all is when a nurse is supporting a patient and their loved ones through the process of palliative or end-of-life care.
Unfortunately, the rise of COVID-19 has meant that skilled care is needed more than ever. As over 156 million people have succumbed to the virus since its introduction, nurses all over the world have been right by their side.
Palliative care nurses work in a variety of environments including patients’ homes, residential hospices, clinics, long-term and skilled care facilities, and acute in-patient facilities. In fact, nurses spend more time with patients and their families than most other healthcare professionals.
Expert nursing care can reduce the pain and suffering of people close to the end of their life. These incredible carers can also support the physical, social, psychological, and spiritual needs of the patients and their families.
What are the challenges facing the nursing industry
It takes a lot of skill, patience, and heart to be a nurse and not everyone is cut out for this demanding profession. A year of dealing with COVID-19 has taken its toll on even the most hard-working nurse, with the American Nurses Association reporting that 51% of nurses are currently feeling ‘overwhelmed’.
Other reports show 93% of healthcare workers reported feelings of stress, with 76% reporting burnout and exhaustion. If relentless physical and emotional pressures drive these exhausted nurses to leave the profession, who will take their place?
According to the CEO of the International Council of Nurses (ICN), Howard Catton, “Even if only 10 to 15% of the current nursing population quits because of the COVID-19 Effect, we could have a potential shortfall of 14 million nurses by 2030, which is the equivalent of half the current nursing workforce.”
This could be bad news for the nursing care profession, but even worse news for the general public.
On International Nurses Day it’s more important than ever to shine a spotlight on these healthcare heroes and amplify what they’re going through to the wider world so we can find a solution to take better care of those who take care of us.