A Nurse's Power to Turn the Tide of COVID

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The effects of the COVID crisis had left communities ravaged and the nursing workforce heartbroken and exhausted. Nurses have the power to change the landscape of this healthcare crisis, by using the tools they are trained to use, inherent in their profession.

by Brenda Montoya Brenda Montoya (New)

Specializes in OB, OB surgical tech, nursing education. Has 21 years experience.

Turning the Tide of COVID is Not Insurmountable for the Nursing Workforce

A Nurse's Power to Turn the Tide of COVID

COVID-19 has been an active virus in the United States for twenty-one months.  When the first documented case appeared in January 2020, the average American would have never imagined the sequella now raging through the country.  No training or experience could have adequately prepared frontline workers for this healthcare crisis.  

The storm that was COVID-19 brought with it a global state of emergency.  Nurses and their patients were vulnerable, struggling to survive the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators, coupled with a severe shortage of hospital beds and healthcare workers.  

Nurses have powered through extraneous hours, heartbreak, and physical exhaustion, anticipating the end of this crisis with a promised vaccine.  Nurses believed in the messages of hope uttered by the nation’s leaders and top scientists, buoyed by national cries celebrating them as heroes.

However, in late 2021 the COVID-19 crisis continues to ravage the world with little hope of control.  The CDC1 reports seventy-seven percent of people older than twelve have received at least one dose of the vaccine, but a majority of the nation continues to have high transmission rates.  The virus is evolving with the now highly transmissible delta variant2, the illness of those affected growing in severity and with possible long-term effects3 affecting all major body systems.

Nursing Shortages

Nursing shortages were a commonality before COVID-19, and have only been amplified by its effects on the healthcare system.  In August 2021 the New York Times4 published an article describing the nursing profession in crisis, with burned out and exhausted nurses unable to continue the fight. 

The Mass Exodus

Nurses nearing retirement age are leaving the profession early, and comprise nearly thirty-three percent of the nursing workforce, according to the New York Times5. Others are accepting highly lucrative positions, a response travel agencies and some hospitals have offered during this severe nursing shortage.

Following a recent study conducted by the University of St. Augustine for Health Science6, 1.2 million registered nurses are needed to meet present conditions.  The American Nurses Association (ANA)7 urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as recently as August 2021 “to declare the current and unsustainable nurse staffing shortage facing our country a national crisis”. 

There are simply not enough nurses to adequately care for our communities.  A crisis independent of, but compounded by the pandemic.

Nurses Are Embattled

Surveys8 uncover nurses are feeling increasingly embattled9, managing unrelenting workloads with inadequate care quality.  They are caring for patients hostile about vaccination and other related agendas.  Nurses have reached their limits, and nearly twenty-two percent9 indicated they may leave their nursing position within the next year.  Greater than half of the respondents quoted in this survey state insufficient staffing, workload intensity, and the emotional toll of the job as important factors in their decision. 

Many nurses feel inadequate and ready to surrender, but continue to have a sense of responsibility and pride in the profession.  Nurses volunteer to care for others, understanding most of the possible consequences.  Nursing has never been easy, with obstacles and dangerous conditions testing faith and resilience.  But the sacrifice has always been rewarded with the ability to heal and bring peace and comfort to those who depend on it. 

Turning the Tide of COVID

Turning the tide of the COVID crisis seems like a daunting task, one too grandiose for a single professional group to obtain.  Some nurses remain invested in the idealistic Nightingale Pledge, devoting their lives to “service and the high ideals of the nursing profession”, but cannot grasp how they can change the direction of this crisis. 

Social Media Engagement

The World Health Organization10 (WHO) published findings regarding social media interaction, and how it plays an increasingly important role in spreading both accurate information and misinformation.  Many people rely on social media platforms to gather data and form opinions, particularly when it comes to COVID.  As the top most trusted professionals11, nurses can have enormous influence over public opinion on social media.

Understanding how to gather accurate information while basing decisions on scientific evidence is an inherent role of the nurse.  Social platforms can be one of the greatest assets a nurse can use to discredit misinformation and provide evidence-based education to the public.  If the majority of nurses used social media in this manner, community health and well-being could be positively impacted, drastically changing the healthcare landscape following the COVID crisis. 

Be An Example

Wear a Mask

Vaccinated or not, wearing a mask in public venues where social distancing is not possible makes a very clear statement.  Discover Magazine12 cited mask-wearing as one of the simplest but most effective ways to stay healthy during this time of COVID, including the defense against other viruses such as influenza and the common cold.  As trusted medical professionals, nurses who wear masks in public will prompt others to follow, or at least ask questions.  Leading by example is one of the simplest ways to influence community health practices.   

Get Vaccinated

Nurses understand vaccines are not for everyone.  There are allergic reactions and medical conditions to consider. Some also reject vaccinations for personal and religious reasons.   

But vaccines have been a part of nursing education and employment requirements for years.  Nurses understand the protection vaccinations provide against diseases that can be disfiguring, life-altering, and deadly.  Many nurses are lining up for their COVID vaccine because they have witnessed first-hand what the alternative can be.  A nurse who is vaccinated is not only protecting their health but is directly influencing others to follow. 

Respect Others and Educate

With impossible workloads, sicker patients, and an unrelenting work environment, nurses are exhausted and disheartened.  When an unvaccinated, misinformed, and openly opinionated patient is under their care, many nurses are tempted to grunt in frustration and walk away.  

However, this is where the power lies in a nurse’s hands.  An enormous portion of the job is patient education.  Nurses are in a position to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information to patients without shaming or discrediting them.  Not all patients will be convinced to see it differently, but some will.  The ripple effect of providing that important information to one person can extend far into our communities turning the course of this healthcare crisis.    

The Power of Nurses

COVID-19 is not disappearing as many had hoped it might, and the impact on our nursing workforce has been devastating.  Turning the tide is achievable, and also necessary for our survival.  Nurses can make a conscious effort to capitalize on the trust the public has placed in them as a profession. Nurses have the power to turn the tide of the COVID crisis, by standing together with respect, honor, and truth. 


References:

1 COVID Data Tracker 

2 CDC What You Need to Know about Variants

3 CDC: Post-COVID Conditions

4The New York Times - ‘Nursing Is in Crisis’: Staff Shortages Put Patients at Risk

5The New York Times 

6 The 2021 American Nursing Shortage: A Data Study

7 COVID-19 Accentuates Nationwide Nursing Shortage

8 Washington Center for Nursing: COVID-19 Impact on the Nursing Workforce Study

9 Nursing in 2021: Retaining the healthcare workforce when we need it most

10 COVID-19-related misinformation of social media: a systemic review

11 U.S. Ethics Ratings Rise for Medical Workers and Teachers

12 5 COVID-19 Takeaways That Changed Medicine

Brenda is a freelance health writer who also specializes in labor and delivery nursing. She is a rare native of Denver, Colorado. When she’s not living her writing passion or catching babies, you can find her playing along with her three sons or catching up on her favorite novel.

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6 Comment(s)

pattithenurse

Specializes in School Nursing/Pediatrics. Has 30 years experience.

Great article and true on all fronts!

 

toomuchbaloney

Has 43 years experience.

We've definitely noticed that nurses have added their professional credibility to the antivaxxer voice.  Some of them even think that they can convince other nursing professionals with their mumbo-jumbo vaccine "concerns" by visiting this platform and sharing their nonsense.

SmilingBluEyes

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis. Has 24 years experience.

Thank you for this informative article!

Great article!

"They are caring for patients hostile about vaccination and other related agendas." and "Understanding how to gather accurate information while basing decisions on scientific evidence is an inherent role of the nurse". 

Sadly, many nurses themselves have their own agendas and are spreading misinformation on social media. Very frustrating. (Also, in the outpatient setting we have mostly medical assistants answering phones and conveying information).

Edited by 2BS Nurse

Brenda Montoya

Specializes in OB, OB surgical tech, nursing education. Has 21 years experience.

4 hours ago, 2BS Nurse said:

Great article!

"They are caring for patients hostile about vaccination and other related agendas." and "Understanding how to gather accurate information while basing decisions on scientific evidence is an inherent role of the nurse". 

Sadly, many nurses themselves have their own agendas and are spreading misinformation on social media. Very frustrating. (Also, in the outpatient setting we have mostly medical assistants answering phones and conveying information).

Agreed. All we can do is use our own influence to shed light on any misinformation others might be spreading. Not everyone is open to listening to ideas that contradict their beliefs, and everyone has the right to believe what they do. It’s just sad that nurses who are trusted in the community would use that influence without backing it up with scientific evidence.