How Nursing Schools Are Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic
In March, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) caused the suspension of all in-person classes and clinical rotations for nursing stude
As a nurse, you’re more than just a clinician, nurses are educators, advocates, and leaders in healthcare and in their communities. Nurses should be aware of the multitude of issues affecting their practice and their patients. There are many things that rank high on a nurse’s priority list, but we’ve compiled the top 5 issues that every nurse should be caring about as we transition into the new year.
Our patients need us. They need awake, alert, and engaged nurses at their side during their weakest and most vulnerable moments. Yet unfortunately, safe nurse staffing remains an issue in many hospitals and acute care settings around the country. Hospital units are forced to run with less nurses than they need and nurses are managing patient loads beyond what is considered optimal or even safe. There is an overwhelming amount of literature illuminating the detrimental effects on patient safety of inadequate staffing and long overtime shifts for nurses. The majority of states don’t have laws in place surrounding nurse-to-patient ratios, and many hospitals still utilize mandatory overtime to fill gaps in staffing. All of this leads to unsafe conditions for both patients and nurses. The evidence is clear, and as nurses, we shouldn’t stop fighting until we have better conditions for ourselves and our patients.
The United States tops the list as #1 of high-income countries where children don’t receive the measles vaccine according to UNICEF. Diseases such as measles, pertussis (whooping cough), and mumps are all preventable with vaccines, all of which are widely available in the United States, yet people are still contracting and suffering from these illnesses. The “anti-vax” movement has set in motion a significant chain of events leading to outbreaks and deaths in the US. In 2019, the U.S. had the highest number of reported measles outbreaks since 1992. Now, the country of Samoa is in the middle of a deadly measles outbreak, claiming at least 69 lives so far. The outbreak is so extensive that the government actually shut down and has charged an alleged anti-vaccination activist for “incitement against a government order.” Nurses can use their position as trusted clinicians to help educate patients and families on the importance and safety of vaccinations. It’s crucial that all nurses know the facts when it comes to vaccinations and more importantly, it’s crucial that all nurses care.
Every nurse takes pride in calling themselves a nurse. It’s an honor and a privilege, one that is earned after years of hard work. Unfortunately, not all states protect the title of “nurse”. Some states protect “registered nurse”, while others make it legal for anyone to refer to themselves as a “nurse”. In Ohio, House Bill 501 was introduced to allow veterinary technicians to change their title to veterinary nurse and most RNs and advanced practice nurses are not pleased. Nursing professional associations, including the American Nurses Association (ANA), argue for the protection of the title “nurse,” supporting the concept that nursing refers to the care of human patients only.
When most of us think of a dangerous career choice, we tend to think of police officers and firefighters, not nurses. However, the nursing profession and hospital settings can also be unsafe at times. According to AMN Healthcare, nurses suffer alarming rates of incivility, bullying, and physical assaults in the workplace. Currently, not all states have specific language with increased penalties for assaulting healthcare workers and not all states are required to have workplace violence prevention programs (although many do). The legislature is finally taking steps in the right direction to make an impact. In November 2019, The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Services Act of 2019 was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and while there is a still a long road ahead, this is progress for nurses and other healthcare workers. The American Nurses Association launched its #EndNurseAbuse campaign and the Emergency Nurses Association backed the workplace violence bill, signaling that positive change is coming to the nursing profession, making hospitals and clinics safer for workers and patients alike.
In addition to increasing access to care, nurses must be cognizant that they are providing culturally sensitive care to each patient. Studies and surveys continue to show that the LGBTQIA+ populations suffer health disparities and find themselves being treated by clinicians who aren’t well-informed or who aren’t practicing cultural humility. Additionally, patients in the LGBTQIA+ community often have unique healthcare needs, risks and/or barriers that clinicians must be aware of so they can properly assess and treat patients. While special training on cultural competence is great, you don’t need to be highly educated to treat others with kindness, compassion, and respect regardless of race, religion, sex, or orientation. Nurses should practice by the Code of Ethics, treating all individuals equally and maintaining respect, dignity, and human rights.