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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.