Healthcare workers, especially nurses, are physically and emotionally exhausted from dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Hospitals continue to struggle as safety protocols evolve, with nurses on the front lines banding together to learn from and support each other.
No matter how powerful the force of community, there are still many obstacles facing healthcare workers who must provide patient care while maintaining their own health. Five of the most common issues they face include limited resources, ethical dilemmas, compromised standards, constant change and emotional toll.
- Limited Resources
Nurses are asked to work harder with fewer resources — shortages of physical supplies like personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators or beds have put strain on many healthcare systems. Many facilities are short-staffed, while others are experiencing layoffs and pay cuts. Some hospitals, especially in rural areas, have been forced to close, making public healthcare access even more challenging.
- Ethical Dilemmas
Many nurses go to work each day afraid and anxious — not as much for their own health as for the possibility of spreading the virus to their loved ones or colleagues. Some choose to stay away from home or send their children to live elsewhere. One nurse said she feels like a “sheep sent to slaughter.” This struggle creates an ethical dilemma of choosing between loved ones and patients in your care – and the experience has been isolating and stressful for many.
- Compromised Standards
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), N95 masks are one of the most important PPE items to prevent spread of the virus, but without supplies, many nurses are forced to reuse single-use surgical masks for weeks, or even resort to homemade masks. Not only is this not safe or sanitary, reports of stockpiling or hoarding supplies make the situation even more delicate.
- Constant Change
Nurses are dealing with constant change. Because the novel coronavirus is so new and undergoing study, many medical decisions regarding COVID-19 rely on “shaky data” without extensive, well-designed randomized controlled studies, and there is no exact science to determine best practice. Constant change can lead to high levels of stress, anxiety or depression – and even nurse burnout.
- Emotional Toll
Many nurses say they have “just had it.” They are doing everything they can to fight the virus and putting their lives on the line each day. Meanwhile, the 24-hour news cycle and social media show people congregating on crowded beaches, states re-opening despite increases in case counts and skeptics pushing back against masks. Some healthcare workers fighting to keep patients alive feel the rest of the world has no regard for the severity of the situation.
Resources for Nurses
One way to combat the stresses of COVID-19 is to arm yourself with information. It helps to have current, credible information about the virus, its treatment, its impact, and the best method of care for patients. The source list at the end of this article has links to the resources below.
Finding good information on COVID-19 can be challenging because new knowledge emerges as the situation evolves. These reputable resources are great places to start:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Johns Hopkins University & Medicine: Coronavirus Resource Center
- World Health Organization: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic
In addition, your workplace may have patient resources in drug databases. These software solutions may have professional information and best practices available through electronic medical health records, such as Epic.
Several organizations provide information that impacts nursing practice. Many specialty organizations provide content for nurses working with specific patient populations (like those in cancer care or the emergency department). Below are just a few professional resources for healthcare workers:
- American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
- American Nurses Association: COVID-19 Resource Center
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association
- Emergency Nurses Association: COVID-19 Information
- Lippincott Nursing Center: 2019 Novel Coronavirus Nurse Resource
- Oncology Nursing Society: ONS Information Regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Society of Trauma Nurses: COVID-19 Resources
- Wolters Kluwer: COVID-19 Resources & Tools (Coronavirus Resources)
Social Media Resources
With the ever-changing situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, what was useful yesterday may not be helpful today. Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, often circulate information on the coronavirus faster than organizational websites. Nurses must be able to sort through the deluge and discard misinformation to find credible, reliable and up-to-date information. Below are just a few reputable social media accounts and hashtags to follow.
- Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology – @APIC
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – @CDCGov
- Clinical trials – #clinical trials
- National Institutes of Health – #nih
- National Library of Medicine – @nlm_news
- Palliative care – #pallicovid
Nurse are heroes on the front lines, but many are still experiencing frustration, fear, exhaustion, isolation, emotional trauma and even bullying. Several online and social media groups offer support for self-care during COVID-19.
- American Nurses Association: Ethical Considerations
- American Nurses Association Well-Being Initiative
- Johnson & Johnson Institute: Mental Health & Well-Being
- GW School of Medicine & Health Sciences: Resources for Coping with COVID-19
In addition, nurses can find help for difficult conversations with patients or their loved ones through resources from VITALtalk and AACN.
Experiencing excessive stress during this time is not a sign of weakness; it signals a time to take action. Help is available, with a vast array of online and social media resources there for the taking.
Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University’s online RN to BSN program.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing: ELNEC Support for Nurses During COVID-19
Becker Hospital Review: Rural America Braces for COVID-19 as More Hospitals Close
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of Facemasks
NBC News: Why Some Nurses Have Quit During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Reuters: Nurses Must Be Protected from Abuse During Coronavirus Pandemic: WHO, Nursing Groups
STAT: With Only ‘Shaky Data’ to Go On, It’s Tough to Practice Evidence-Based Medicine During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Dallas Morning News: Baylor Scott & White CEO on Interacting Without a Mask: ‘Health is Not a Spectator Sport’
VITALtalk: COVID Ready Communication Playbook
World Health Organization: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic