The COVID-19 pandemic has been reigning havoc across the world for about 15 months now. Everyone has been affected in one way or another, but the people who have shouldered the biggest risk of personal safety have been the front-line workers. Nurses, in particular, stay up close with corona patients and help them deal with varied symptoms and complications.
Interacting with these patients is an act of great courage, to say the least. This courage, unfortunately, comes at a great cost because thousands of nurses and other medical professionals around the world have been exposed to and succumbed to the coronavirus. But that unfortunate ordeal hasn’t weakened their resolve to relieve patients of suffering and give them emotional comfort during their last hours of life. They were there to comfort families of COVID-19 patients at a time when everyone else was shut indoors.
Without a doubt, the pandemic brought a whole new level of complexity to the nursing job, but our nurses have to be commended for taking everything in their stride and literally putting their lives on the line to save humanity.
The Social Distancing Challenge
The hardest part of being a nurse in the times of the corona pandemic has to be keeping physical distance and still managing to care for patients sufficiently. They cannot chit-chat with patients or visit the patients’ rooms as often as they’d normally do. They can’t be on patients’ bedsides as often as they’d like, they cannot hold hands for that extra emotional connection, and human interactions have greatly reduced. Virtual calls have helped bridge this emotional gap, but they are not effective enough to replace real human interactions.
In 3rd world countries where personal protective equipment (PPEs) are both insufficient and substandard, nurses are worried about catching the coronavirus from their patients or colleagues. Hospitals in 1st world countries have all the protective gear they need, hygiene protocols are top-notch, and everyone is well trained to stay cautious, but the huge numbers of in-patients make it hard to practice social distancing. These are challenges that nurses will have to contend with even for months to come.
Mental Health Concerns
The fear of taking the virus home to their families has put nurses under more than normal pressure, stress, and anxiety in the last 15 months. Of course, that had to be expected, bearing in mind that health workers are walking right through the high risk that everyone else is being advised to run away from. On top of that, with the rising corona-related deaths on the daily, these nurses are losing more patients than at any other time in their careers. The tougher the shifts they endure, the more traumatized they get. And as if that is not enough, hospital workers have been forced to self-isolate from their family members, from the support system that helps them switch from work to home mode.
The Role of Student Nurses in the Pandemic
Student nurses in many countries were deployed as extra sets of hands to help ease the Coronavirus burden in hospitals. However, the unfortunate thing is that because they aren’t permanent employees in these hospitals, the death-in-service insurance scheme does not cover them. That is to say, when a student dies in the line of duty, they are not to expect any form of reimbursement. This kind of under-appreciation that governments, especially in the UK, US, and other first world countries, need to address going forward.
Students also need to be commended for helping out their nursing colleagues and medics even with the gross under-appreciation. What is even more heart-warming is that more and more nursing students have drawn inspiration from the brevity of their practicing colleagues to finish their degrees, sit their NCLEX RN exam, and get registered into the profession. Perhaps this is the greatest silver lining of this deadly pandemic.
What Support Do Nurses Need?
Peer, organizational, and professional support will go a long way in providing nurses with the psychosocial support they need to keep going. Greater collaboration will be needed between domestic nursing unions, the WHO, and governments worldwide when forging a way forward in regards to the appreciation and compensation of all frontline health workers during the pandemic. The same goes for all nurses’ safety and well-being, even as they care for other people’s health and safety. The children of healthcare workers, on the other hand, will need additional wrap-around care as compensation for the time they are not spending with their parents.
Within the chaos and corona darkness, it should not be lost to anyone the role the general public has played in supporting health care workers. This collaboration is phenomenal and should be encouraged even after the pandemic. That would mean a lot to our nurses and doctors.