Confronting Misinformation about COVID-19 in Real-Time

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Nurses have the power to change the course of the COVID-19 pandemic by taking a stance in real-time whenever someone mentions false information about the virus.

Take a Stance On COVID Misinformation

Confronting Misinformation about COVID-19 in Real-Time

The SARS-CoV-2, aka COVID-19, was first discovered in 2019 in Wuhan, China, and has killed more than 742,000 people in the United States and 4. 9 million people worldwide. The pandemic has placed a tremendous strain on our health care system. In the early days of the pandemic, nurses were deemed heroes and were often met with applause as they left their homes headed to work. Yet, there were instances where the donning of scrubs in public places was met with hostility as laypersons reacted to the fear brought on by COVID-19. We saw governors of many states speed up the licensure process for new graduate RNs. Likewise, retired nurses were called back to the bedside to assist as the wrath of COVID-19 overtook hospitals globally. But underneath the surface of the battle, a different war rapidly brewed on social media sites and mainstream platforms that spread misinformation about the severity of COVID-19. Well-respected physicians and high-ranking medical officials were called liars. This media garbage worked up enough fear that millions of people lost trust in the medical system. Health care professionals, nurses, in particular, have an even greater burden as we attempt to dispel the myths and highlight the facts of a virus that continues to rage.

Nurses can help turn the corner of the COVID-19 pandemic by confronting myths in real-time. If a nurse is talking with someone and they disclose false information about the pandemic, gently correct them on the spot. A great example occurred at my mother's outpatient rehab facility. A physician was receiving therapy at the same facility. The spouse of another patient began speaking with the physician (unaware that he was a doctor) about COVID-19 and said, "There is no use in wearing these masks because it is not stopping the virus." The physician immediately said, "I am a doctor, and I can tell you it's bad. Please wear your mask." The man appeared taken aback by the physician's statement, but he will likely not forget that conversation.

Another way to turn the corner on the pandemic is by dismantling myths surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine and highlight the tremendous amount of work that went into mass development, testing, manufacturing, and distribution. The scientists used a combination of vaccines previously studied and have been on the market for years. Such vaccines include hepatitis B, varicella-zoster, human papillomavirus, and influenza. Epidemiologist and Good Morning America medical contributor Dr. John Brownstein said in an interview on Oct. 9, 2021, that the COVID-19 vaccine is the most studied in history. Nurses should relay the message that the vaccine has been adequately studied and is safe.

It is also a good idea to advise people, especially patients, to stay away from a lot of negative language in the media and direct them to websites that are factual. People have busy lives, and they really don't have time to engage in a lot of factual evidence. Hence, the loudest voices will be heard; our politicians, different extremist groups, and negative media personalities which delivers misinformation about the COVID-19 virus and vaccine. Redirecting people to factual evidence is key to them gaining an understanding of the virus, vaccinations, prevention, and treatment.

Finally, nurses should lead by example and follow the CDC recommendations. Continue wearing masks indoors and in large gatherings. People will stare and may even make negative comments, but leaders are not afraid to stand alone. Nurses should remain vigilant with handwashing, using hand sanitizer, social distancing when necessary, and getting vaccinated. These methods seem outdated but are still effective. A nurse's duty extends beyond the bedside. People are watching us all the time. Laypeople look to nurses for answers, and we must uphold the oath we took when we answered the call to be a nurse.

The bottom line is no one can force people to believe in science, nor can we as nurses coax people into vaccination. It is not wise to argue with people. Yet saying something simple, short, and to the point will deliver a strong message. When speaking with people about the pandemic, try to get a general sense of whether the person wants to be argumentative or genuinely wants to know about COVID-19.


Resources

A strategic approach to COVID-19 vaccine R&D

Worldometer: COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic

Registered Nurse with 20+ years experience in various medical settings, including 10+ years as a solid organ transplant coordinator and a nurse manager. I love to write and share parts of my life's journey through blogging on StayFruitful.com.

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