Nurses’ Concerns COVID19: Update March 29, 2020


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).

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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.

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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

Be well.

 

 

COVID19 and Nurses’ Concerns


Nurses are the backbone of all of the health care professions: we care for people and communities in difficult situations. We are compassionate and ethical. We put ourselves at risk daily for everything from violence from patients and families to contacting contagious diseases to post-traumatic stress from what we witness.

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Here is some of what I have read about on the social media COVID19 for nurses and healthcare providers pages that are popping up faster than dandelions.

  1. There is poor planning by, and a lack of communication from, most hospital systems, likely in part impacted by the lack of leadership at the state level. A national survey of nurses by National Nurses United found “high percentages of hospitals do not have plans, isolation procedures, and policies in place for COVID-19; that communication to staff by employers is poor or nonexistent; that hospitals are lacking sufficient stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE) or are not making current stocks available to staff; and have not provided training and practice to staff on how to use PPE properly”. https://www.nationalnursesunited.org/press/survey-nations-frontline-registered-nurses-shows-hospitals-unprepared-covid-19
  2. Personal Protective Equipment is now rationed. In inpatient settings, some nurses are asked to use just one mask/ day. An article in the New YorkTimes details how nurses are begging for PPE: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/05/us/coronavirus-nurses.html 
  • In the home care settings, nurses are asked or told to use one mask and one gown/ day. Obviously, this means they can’t maintain or implement proper precautions when traveling from house to house, the gown itself potentially becomes a contaminant.
  • In the home care setting, patients are canceling appointments because they view the nurses as vectors. In the long run, this could have huge implications for greater levels of care needed by these patients if they decline without proper care and guidance.

2. Most facilities do not have plans in place for the forthcoming surge in COVID19 patients.

3. The Centers for Disease Control rolled back the N-95 mask requirement and has stated that a simple surgical mask is sufficient in caring for COVID19 suspected or confirmed patients, and that may be used for extended periods while caring for multiple patients. They also have decided that reusable gowns are fine to use. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/letters-health-care-providers/surgical-mask-and-gown-conservation-strategies-letter-healthcare-providers

4.  Fears of getting sick themselves are rampant amongst nurses and other providers. Pregnant nurses have no idea if a COVID19 infection might affect their pregnancy. Those nurses with existing health conditions who are at risk are not sure if they should come into work, or reveal their health conditions to the workplace, or risk losing their jobs. Additionally, nurses who come home to care for elderly relatives, children, etc. are petrified of making them sick.

5. Nurses are not offered COVID19 testing, and if they have symptoms, they are often being told to use vacation, paid time off, or leave without pay, and to self-quarantine and contact the workplace in 14 days.  Those who are at risk are not identified quickly. https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/5/21166088/coronavirus-covid-19-protection-doctors-nurses-health-workers-risk

6.  Nurses may be mandated to work overtime, which can wreak havoc on stress levels and immune responses. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/letters-health-care-providers/surgical-mask-and-gown-conservation-strategies-letter-healthcare-providers

The CDC and NIOSH recognized years ago that working 12-hour shifts alone may be dangerous, with deteriorating performance on psychophysiological tests and an increase in risk for injuries. Poor outcomes and personal capabilities worsen with 12-hour shifts worked particularly in combination with working more than 40 hours. Working overtime obviously leads to physical fatigue, and it also increases risks for alcohol use and cigarette smoking. And there is still a lot we don’t know, such as how does working longer impact women or older workers? What about those with pre-existing or chronic conditions? What is the influence of occupational exposure?

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What can we do, and what are nurses doing?

Now is the time: we are going to have to advocate for ourselves. We also need to demand proper access to PPE, PPE training, proper testing approaches, and call for OSHA standards related to the risks we face.

We can all act as advocates locally to call for safe working conditions, and we can join forces with our national nursing organizations to continue to call for support, funding, and access to proper PPE.

Feel free to share your ideas here.