There is so much going on that it’s really hard to summarize all of the issues. I welcome dialog and discussion of your concerns and what you are seeing and hearing about.
Nurses’ Shifting Thinking About Duty To Provide Services
I am seeing a shift in thinking with more nurses being willing to leave their jobs as they are not adequately protected: working without adequate PPE creates harm to self, others, and community. An emergency room doctor was fired for speaking out about his hospital’s response (US NEWS report). So these actions are not without their cost.
We are also seeing more and more healthcare workers testing positive for COVID19. What stands out to me is the over 160 healthcare workers in Boston have tested positive for COVID19 in these early days. (Boston Hospital Workers test positive) and 12 nurses in Chicago have tested positive for COVID19 Chicago nurses test positive for COVID19.
Nurses who are staying in the direct care workforce are often very frightened: they are staying because if they quit, they won’t’ get unemployment, they are fearful that they won’t find another job because they left their current job abruptly, they are the sole or majority breadwinners in their families, and they are afraid of losing their healthcare benefits. Some nurses may still feel the deep roots of historically being linked to self-sacrificing, or with links to nursing’s history of religious or military duty (I do anecdotally feel like I am seeing less of this as the pandemic crisis grows).
New Grad Nurses as a Resource: Dr. Chinn pointed out to me that one area that is not getting enough attention is the idea of new grad nurses being allowed to or recruited into practice early, perhaps even before sitting for NCLEX or even finishing their final exams. An example: A CNO in a large New Jersey medical facility is begging a Nursing Program Director to send her senior nursing students to the clinical site, the NLN is okay with this, but how can she, in good conscience, allow her students to be there without proper PPE? Her students who work as techs at this facility also convey the dire conditions in the facility. Also, her faculty, like most nursing faculty, is older (in this case, age 59 on average) with underlying health conditions, which creates a greater risk for them as well.
My ethical perspective answer to this is that unless adequate supervision and proper PPE can be assured, the students should not be allowed into theses settings, as they will ensure harm to self and others, and we must abide by our ethical responsibility to practice beneficence and nonmaleficence. In my own setting as a director of an RN-BSN nursing program, we decided to remove all of our students from all clinical settings, even though we had students who wanted to stay in these community settings, the risks do not outweigh the benefits.
I also think of the challenges of being a new grad nurse: there is so much to learn and process and in a crisis situation will this even be possible? Will we ultimately end up losing a large number of these new grad nurses to post-traumatic stress and illness? This seems to me to really be lacking an ethic of care toward a very vulnerable population, our new grad nurses.
Is Nursing Political?
I was reminded this week that nursing is of course political. I found an interesting posting about how very political Florence Nightingale was. Cynthia Sim Walter (March 22, 2020, facebook) stated that during the Crimean War, Florence was first known as the Lady with a Hammer; she fought for her nurses to have what they needed to provide proper care, and she beat down military storerooms with a hammer. I loved this quote: “Military leaders loathed her and feared her. She drank brandy with the soldiers, did statistics for fun, and had no respect for the politics of men,” (I did not fact check this).
Florence took physical action when nobody else would and her actions were a political act of rebellion to save lives in dire times.
Let’s Reuse Our Masks? Here’s some data
This is heartbreaking when our leading facilities are looking for ways to somehow sterilize single-use masks. Here is something floating around on social media, put out by Stanford.
The full report can be read here. It sums up two important things, that autoclave may be effective (the mask will not have the same integrity, particularly over time; please see stats above). Also with the plastic face shields over other masks, we have no efficacy data around their effectiveness (Stanford Report).
We still need PPE to be well stocked so we can be more assured that we are well protected. We still need to be demanding that.
New Resources and Webinars:
To share more current information, the American Journal of Nursing has joined with Johns Hopkins and others to share ideas around keeping nurses safe. Here’s the link with all the info. https://nurses.wikiwisdomforum.com/
The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare is offering a webinar on Tuesday, April 7, 1-2 pm EDT, entitled: Leading with Compassion: Supporting Healthcare Workers in Crisis. Register Schwartz Compassion Center Webinar