Healthcare workers were among the first to face and understand the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that it’s spread across the globe and hotspots continue to emerge, those frontline workers need help more than ever.
In fact, each healthcare worker in this fight is putting themselves at great risk to treat others. A mid-2020 study of frontline healthcare workers in the US and UK found that they are 12 times more likely than the general population to test positive for COVID-19, and those without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) are even more likely to test positive. A positive result not only takes those people out of their roles as healthcare providers and potentially makes them quite ill, but it also means they could take the virus back to their homes and communities, therefore contributing to the very spread they are trying hard to stop.
Frontline workers put their health on the line every day; how can we help them do their jobs and stay safe? There are plenty of resources that can guide you to helping them, as well as varying levels of involvement, from volunteering to donating funds. Let’s take a look at some concrete, actionable steps you can take to help with this global healthcare crisis.
Front-line workers and first responders are highly trained to deal with COVID-19. The rest of us, unfortunately, are not – which means we can’t necessarily volunteer in ways that we might for some other sort of situation, like a natural disaster. However, there are still plenty of ways the average person can support those on the front lines of this pandemic. Here’s a list of resources to help you get started.
College Life and COVID-19: Is it Possible to Stay Safe?
This article offers some great tips on how to stay safe from COVID-19 while still being on campus and making the most of college life.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic
World Health Organization (WHO)
As the premier international public health organization, the WHO has both comprehensive technical and lay information for the general public and medical experts.
Coronavirus Resource Center – Tracking
Johns Hopkins University & Medicine
When it comes to obtaining the most up-to-date statistics about COVID-19, this is the place to visit. There is also plenty of information about COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and recent developments.
COVID-19 (2019 novel coronavirus) resource center for physicians
American Medical Association (AMA)
The AMA is a leading professional organization for doctors and medical students. They have a special section with the latest news, clinical information, and guides for handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 Control and Prevention, Healthcare Workers and Employees
U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA
OSHA outlines the recommendations on how to implement and follow mandatory regulations for healthcare workers. This information can help clarify federal standards for healthcare professionals and coronavirus protections in the workplace.
COVID-19 Information for the Workplace
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
NIOSH’s role is to complete research concerning workplace safety. They have a number of online resources focused on how workers in various industries can avoid COVID-19 infection and slow its spread.
COVID-19 Resources for Fire and EMS
U.S. Fire Administration
The U.S. Fire Administration is part of FEMA; they offer this webpage that addresses COVID-19 related topics for first responders, such as infection control, medical treatment, and transport of patients who could be infected with COVID-19.
Information for Healthcare Professionals about Coronavirus (COVID-19)
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The CDC’s website contains a plethora of information about COVID-19 tailored to those in the healthcare industry. There is information about infection control, vaccination, testing, and making the most of PPE supplies.
Interim Recommendations for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems and 911 Public Safety Answering Points/Emergency Communication Centers (PSAP/ECCs) in the United States During the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
First responders must help those in need, regardless of whether they have an active COVID-19 infection or not. The CDC provides guidance to help these professionals so they can protect themselves, but still provide assistance to those who might be infected.
ANA (American Nurses Association) Enterprise
This webpage contains valuable information that patients and their family members can use to keep the spread of COVID-19 to a minimum.
Personal Protective Equipment and COVID-19: A Review for Surgeons
U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
This is a very detailed and in-depth article about the various types of PPE available and their effectiveness in stopping the spread of COVID-19. While tailored to medical professionals, the information is helpful to anyone wishing to curb the spread.
TRACIE: Novel Coronavirus Resources
Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Information Gateway, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
TRACIE is the Technical Resources, Assistance Center, and Information Exchange that exists to help health professionals from various arenas deal with public health issues, such as COVID-19.
Front-line workers are already working hard, and they could use some help. But short of becoming a front-line worker yourself, what can you do? Luckily, there are a variety of volunteer opportunities that allows the general public to provide both direct and indirect support. Let’s take a look at some of those options.
Provide Child Care Assistance for Front-Line Workers
Child care has always been a critical resource for any working parent. But with front-line workers spending more time fighting the pandemic, along with the risk of a front-line worker infecting a child back at home, child care services are even more important.
Various organizations across the country allow volunteers to provide this previous resource at no cost to front-line workers. One such organization is COVID Child Care. Located in more than 40 cities, volunteers are paired with a medical professional and provide not just child care services, but household services as well, such as running errands.
Serve as a Test Subject in a Vaccine Clinical Trial
One of the biggest ways get through the COVID-19 pandemic is to find a cure or a vaccine, although the latter is much more likely and well underway. Before the public can take advantage of an effective vaccine, one needs to not just get developed, but go through extensive testing. But this testing requires many tens of thousands of test subjects.
To help make the vaccine process safer, more effective, and faster, individuals can volunteer to become COVID-19 test subjects in clinical studies. To sign up and learn about everything involves, please visit the COVID-19 Prevention Network website.
Help the American Red Cross with Blood Donations
The American Red Cross collects a significant amount of blood donations, including convalescent plasma donations. But much of the hands-on support is the result of generous time donations from Red Cross volunteers.
Most of the opportunities are based on the location of the volunteer and where the help is required. To sign up, visit the American Red Cross’ Volunteer Opportunities page and enter your ZIP code. From there, you can see a list of volunteer opportunities and apply.
Make it Easier for Seniors to Avoid COVID-19 Exposure by Delivering Meals
According to the CDC, there is a direct correlation between age and rate of hospitalization for a COVID-19 illness. This means older adults should avoid possible infection as much as possible. One charity that helps facilitate this goal is Meals on Wheels. Before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the U.S., Meals on Wheels helped seniors by delivering meals to their homes, as well as offering the benefits of a friendly visit and wellness check. But the demand for these services has gone up dramatically thanks to COVID-19.
Volunteer positions are available, but vary depending on the needs of local and independently run charitable organizations. Anyone interested in volunteering should find and contact their local Meals on Wheels affiliate by entering their ZIP Code.
Volunteer at a Local Hospital
Hospitals are at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19, so they appreciate all the help they can get. Depending on the hospital, it may not be possible for non-medical personnel to volunteer. But many still have a need for volunteers and will implement special precautions to account for the risk of COVID-19 infection. For example, the volunteer work will be limited to assisting patients in the hospital common areas or helping screen incoming hospital visitors.
To volunteer, please visit your local hospital or medical center, as they will have information about the status of their volunteer program and how to sign up. For example, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has a special Volunteer page for interested individuals.
Provide Professional Services to Front-Line Workers
First responders and medical providers need professional services just like anyone else. Whether it’s seeking help for mental health issues or drafting a will or other estate document, there is ample opportunity for donating professional services. Many of these opportunities originate with professional organizations.
For example, in California, the California Psychological Association has made arrangements for its psychologist members to offer free mental health services for front-line workers. And across the country, the Wills for Heroes Foundation coordinates with local bar associations to allow attorneys the chance to volunteer and help first responders by preparing wills, living wills, and powers of attorney for them at no charge. Depending on where you work and live, as well as your occupation, there may be a similar volunteer opportunity in your area.
Donate to Causes
If volunteering your time is not possible, there’s still a lot you can do to help first responders and medical workers tackle COVID-19, such as donate money to charitable organizations. But it’s understandable that you want to know exactly where every cent of your donated dollar is going. There are several online tools to help you with this.
First, there’s the Charity Navigator. It has a search tool that allows users to get basic information about a charity. But there’s also detailed analysis about how a charity spends its money and a quick glance at its financial numbers.
Next, you can do a Tax Exempt Organization Search on the IRS’ website. A charity having tax exempt status doesn’t guarantee they’re legitimate or that they spend donated money in the way you hope they will. But it’s a quick and easy way to confirm if a charity is does have a 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, which means your donations will be tax-deductible.
To get you started on your search for the perfect place to donate money to, we’ve compiled a list of organizations based on what donated money will be used for.
Vaccine and Treatment Research
One of the reasons why COVID-19 is so devastating is that it is novel, or new, and therefore the immune system of most people is not familiar with this virus. As a consequence, the immune systems struggle to fight this illness. With a proper understanding of how COVID-19 works and how the human body responds, we can learn how to survive this pandemic. But we can only get this understanding with enough research, which includes the development of a vaccine.
One organization leading the way in research is the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Donations made to this fund go to tracking and promoting COVID-19 research. Funds also go to helping front-line workers and developing COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.
Help People Get Back on Their Feet
One of the most troublesome aspects of COVID-19 is that even if someone survives an infection, there’s still collateral damage, such as reduced income, a lost job, or unexpected medical bills. These financial hurdles can sometimes lead to losing a home, a car, or being unable to feed a family.
To help with these challenges, there’s Modest Needs. This organization’s primary mission is to offer short-term financial assistance of a modest sum to families or individuals who are in a temporary financial bind, but are not eligible for most other forms of public assistance. Any financial grants do not require any fees or repayment by the recipient.
Help Healthcare Workers Directly
Healthcare workers are being pushed to their limits. Not only are they working extended hours and completing tasks outside their area of expertise, but they sometimes have to do all this without adequate PPE or emotional support. Then there are the front-line healthcare workers who get infected themselves and struggle with surviving the illness.
Because nurses form the backbone of any medical care organization, the American Nurses Foundation has set up the Coronavirus Response Fund for Nurses. Money raised will help protecting the interests of nurses by sending direct monetary help, providing mental health assistance, and conveying the latest COVID-19 research data to nurses.
Donating blood has always been important. But with COVID-19, such donations take a renewed interest, especially convalescent plasma donations. Individuals who have fully recovered from a verifiable infection maybe be eligible to donate their blood plasma, which could contain COVID-19 antibodies. This can then be used to help COVID-19 patients recover from an active infection.
To learn more or sign up to donate, there are a number of organizations to contact. But the most well-known will be the American Red Cross, which is a leading blood and plasma donation organization.
Many healthcare workers are going without the adequate personal protective equipment, or PPE, they need to stay safe while doing their very important jobs. We’ve all heard the stories of workers using the same mask for a full shift, when they should be changing it between patients, and of them seeking more PPE only to find that there is nothing available in their hospital or local area. The importance of frontline workers having adequate protection cannot be overstated; for if they themselves are sick, who does that leave to take care of everyone else?
If you happen to have supplies, such as N-95 masks or other protective equipment, please consider donating to somewhere like Get Us PPE. If you don’t have PPE to give (and most people don’t!), consider donating funds. Any little bit helps, and there’s no doubt a frontline worker will be grateful for that fresh mask or isolation gown.
Get a Healthcare Degree
Eventually, this pandemic will come under control. We will have a vaccine, or at the very least, much more effective treatments to fight the illness. But the need for healthcare workers is always going up, and it’s likely to go up even more as the pandemic rages on – or another one appears in the coming years. Getting a healthcare degree can prepare you to help. Here are some of your options:
When a pandemic hits, every area of public health is affected. Public health degrees can open doors to everything from researching where viruses came from to educating the public on how to protect themselves to handling research on how mitigation measures are helping in communities, towns, cities, and countries. Public health degrees can also form a firm foundation for social work, behavioral health, and some nursing or healthcare professions. With so many potential careers under the public health umbrella, there’s sure to be one that puts you in a position to help with COVID-19, the fallout for years to come, and any new pandemics that rise up. To learn more about public health degrees, go here.
Those with COVID-19 sometimes face a very difficult road to recovery, especially if they have been in the hospital for a long time, on a ventilator, or have suffered from serious complications from the illness. As a result, occupational therapists are busier than usual, helping patients recover their strength and ability to do the tasks they likely took for granted before they wound up for a long stay in a hospital bed. Learn more about occupational therapy programs online.
Registered nurses are literally at the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. They are often the ones who conduct the tests to see if a person has it, and can come into contact with infected patients during every phase of the illness, from checking them into the hospital to transporting them to their room to their day-to-day care, from emergency rooms to intensive care units. Considering there’s a nursing shortage already, it’s safe to say that RNs are in high demand and will stay that way. Learn more about becoming a registered nurse.
Nurse practitioners work hand-in-hand with physicians to provide care for patients. In some practices, especially in rural areas, nurse practitioners serve in the physician’s role. As such, they are often one of the first to diagnose patients with COVID-19 and start treatment plans or determine whether that patient needs further, intensive treatment in a hospital. Nurse practitioners have a wide variety of responsibilities, even when there’s no pandemic to deal with; get the inside scoop on nurse practitioner programs online.
Respiratory therapists have been extremely busy in hospitals and clinics as COVID-19 patients come in; the specialized expertise of a respiratory therapist is a must during the pandemic. Their job sounds simple – to help patients breathe – but it’s actually quite complex, requiring a strong depth of knowledge and skills to keep a person going when their body can no longer fend for itself.
To learn more about the variety of ways you can help, take a look at some other medical careers available.
Insight from a Covid-19 Frontline Worker
Alaina Ross is an RN, BSN with 10 years of experience as a nurse in some of the largest hospitals on the west coast. She is also an expert contributor for Test Prep Insight, a test prep company that helps nursing students prepare for exams like the TEAS and NCLEX.
Q. Let’s talk about personal protective equipment. We all know more surges are coming. What are some of the best ways the average person can help ensure PPE for healthcare workers? Are there any organizations that come to mind, or would it be something as simple as dropping off items at their local hospital?
A. Not all hospitals have adequate supplies of PPE, and even for those that currently do, those reserves won’t last forever. With waves of new COVID cases coming every day, this creates a potentially dire situation from a PPE perspective. To help healthcare workers, it would be great if people would not hoard hospital grade protective equipment like surgical masks and N95 respirators. And if you do have stores of such equipment, even if small amounts, please donate them to your local hospital. I can promise that most every hospital or urgent care will be grateful. If you don’t feel safe going near a hospital, there are some great organizations like Get us PPE that will help facilitate your donation.
Q. When it comes to moral support, what are some of the best ways the average person can say “thank you” to those who are working so hard to keep us all safe?
A. Donate a meal, coffee or donuts to your local drive through COVID testers. The folks standing outside in full bunny suits taking test after test in the elements are some of the biggest heroes. These individuals have had to stand outside in full gear in scorching summer weather, and will now have to do the same in freezing winter elements. These people are working hard and anything you want to drop off for them is appreciated. Coffee, snacks, a hot meal, it’s all welcome and very much appreciated.
Q. Are there things we can do in the greater community that will help those on the frontlines do their job more effectively?
A. One of the biggest things people in the general population can do is to look after elderly family members and neighbors. These folks are our most vulnerable population. They should not be out and about, or gathering in large groups. Help them self-quarantine by bringing them groceries and supplies, cooking them a hot meal, dropping off magazines, DVD’s, puzzles, etc. We see a disproportionately large number of elderly folks for COVID-related reasons, which places a huge stress on the healthcare workers and hospitals, so whatever we can do to prevent them from coming into contact with COVID is helpful.
Q. We’ve talked about what the everyday person can do to help. But what are some things we might be doing that could make the problem worse – things we could make a point of stopping?
A. The most helpful thing that the public can do to help support frontline healthcare workers is to be mindful of your physical condition and possible symptoms when going to the hospital. If you need to pick up a family member from the hospital after a surgery, act as a translator, or accompany a child for a doctor visit, please do not go if you’ve been experiencing any symptoms yourself. Hospitals have done a fantastic job limiting contact of staff and patients to non-patients, but unnecessary exposure still happens.
It’s happened a couple of times that family members come into the hospital with a patient for one reason or another, and find out a few days later that they are COVID positive. This requires that all hospital staff they came into contact with during their visit quarantine until they can get test results. This creates a burden on stressed hospital staffs that are already stretched thin. In addition, hospitals are generally full of sick individuals, who are our most vulnerable population. The supportive signs in windows and meal drop-offs for healthcare workers are nice, but my biggest ask would be to be cautious and only go to the hospital if you really need to.