Nurses play a very important role both locally and globally. They are on the front lines caring for patients day in and day out. They are able to see what is working, as well as things that can be done differently to provide more effective and efficient care and offer suggestions for improvement.
Why and how are nurses important in managing a health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic?
Nurses are important in managing a health crisis because they are a vital link between the patient and the rest of the health care team. They are with their patients for their whole shift, and through their nursing skills like assessment and critical thinking, and are able to notice subtle changes in their patients that could indicate if they are getting worse, or better. Through nursing notes, nurses relay their assessment findings to providers, they are able to determine if respiratory therapy needs to be called, they are able to assess the patient’s response to medical treatments, and they educate the patients, along with providing a listening ear or a calming touch.
What are some of the challenges nurses are facing in combating the coronavirus?
Addressing people’s fears is probably the hardest thing. Nurses are also worried about contracting the virus themselves and infecting their families.
What can nurses do to protect themselves against risk?
One of the first things is having enough proper PPE to use while working. Health care workers are implementing other strategies to help protect themselves against risk, including changing out of their work attire before entering their homes, showering as soon as they get home, and many health care providers are also isolating themselves into a separate room of their home, away from other family members in order to try and protect their family members as best as they can. And of course, meticulous and repeated handwashing!
What are the patient communication strategies for COVID-19 conversations?
In some critical cases of COVID-19, nurses may need to focus on the patient and the caregiver conversations on making choices about palliative and comfort care, advance care planning, or even end-of-life preparations. Navigating patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic is constantly demanding. The following recommendations may help nurses with those more difficult conversations and to sustainably provide quality care:
- Before you go in to see a patient, take a moment for one deep breath.
- When explaining options to patients, share what you are concerned about so you can decide what is best together
- Discuss each step in the process with patients.
- Look for moments every day where you can connect with someone, share something, and enjoy something.
- Analyze and take stock of your emotions throughout the day. Can you accept them and then determine what you need?
- Ask yourself: Can I step into a more balanced mindset even as I move into this next responsibility?
- Know you can rely on your team and support each other.
Watch the following video to learn more about COVID-19 patient care preparation
How nurses can protect their practice with legal tools?
- Know your state nurse practice act and its rules and review them on a regular basis.
- Stay informed by attending the board of nursing meetings.
- Purchase and maintain your own professional liability insurance policy.
- Remain clinically current in your chosen specialty.
- Participate in research or design and carry out your own research study to help support needed changes in inpatient care. This can reduce your liability when providing care to patients.
- Use evidence-based nursing practices.
- Be mindful at all times when providing patient care or preparing and administering medications.
- Maintain general knowledge of the law applicable to nursing practice and your practice specifically.
- Maintain open lines of direct and honest communication with nursing and other healthcare team members, patients, and patients’ families.
- Utilize a risk management approach when providing care to patients to decrease the risk of injury to or death of a patient.
- Know your employee handbook, review it regularly for changes, and follow your employer’s adopted policies and procedures.
What are some ways to protect your patients’ rights?
- Never discuss the patient’s case with anyone without the patient’s permission (including family and friends during off-duty hours)
- Never leave hard copies of forms or records where unauthorized persons may access them.
- Only use secure routes to send patient information (for example, official mail) and always mark this information confidential.
- When using an interpreter, ensure that the interpreter understands the importance of patient confidentiality and signs an agreement with you to keep your patient’s records confidential.
- Keep records that contain patient names and other identifying information in closed, locked files.
Stress management and self-care for nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic
- When it comes to the cognitive impacts of the pandemic, it is recommended to get news and information from reputable sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), etc. Healthcare workers should also limit the amount of news consumed, as it can become overwhelming and they should focus on what they can control.
- Check-in with and reframe anxiety-provoking statements to statements that better reflect the evidence. This can reduce stress and increase coping abilities. For example, reframe, “my family will get the virus and die” to “the majority of people who get the virus recover.”
- While nurses may feel like they are constantly supporting others, it is important that they seek out those who they can fall back on, too. Nurses can share concerns with friends, family, and colleagues, and solve the problem together.
- Nurses can find novel ways to connect with others during this time of social distancing: call, video chat, reach out on social media, and more.
Increased anxiety is common as we navigate Covid-19 and the broad impacts on our communities. It is a normal, natural response to have increased emotions during this time of uncertainty, including feeling stressed, worried, sad, scared, disappointed, or confused. The more we focus on what is out of our control, the more stressed and anxious we begin to feel.
Ways to beat the burnout
The high stress during the COVID-19 pandemic can eventually affect mental health, lead to physical, and emotional exhaustion, otherwise known as burnout. And it can happen to even the best of nurses. But by following these tips, nurses can alleviate stress and get back to loving their job.
Over to you
Nurses have always answered the call to serve their country and communities during times of crisis. We know that clear communication, collaboration, resilience, and innovation are key to navigating the challenges of effectively responding to COVID-19. We stand with you and will continue to advocate in the near future.
“Nurses dispense comfort, compassion, and caring without even a prescription.”