Globally there is already a change to the way the world is viewing nurses and healthcare professionals in general. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought nurses to the forefront of people’s minds and the media attention, and public gratitude towards healthcare professionals is being captured on a daily basis.
As not everyone understands what happens in a healthcare facility, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of the contribution of the nurses to healthcare prevention and promotion.
As proven to the world and the country, nurses continue to be the ones to share the burden of healthcare and are happy that their contribution is being acknowledged more than ever before. The image of the nursing community and society and the overall morale of nursing is getting significant acknowledgement and recognition during these challenging times.
Nurses are very aware of the challenges of delivering high-quality care at a time of pandemic and have demonstrated how they can improve productivity with sustained high quality. We salute these healthcare warriors who work without any expectations and by sacrificing their personal life and family and for their contribution in saving lives and improving health outcomes.
I hope that nurses, as a group, grow professionally and that enrolments into the nursing profession increase. This year, 2020, being the year of the Nurse and Midwife, there is no time like the present to celebrate and be proud of the rewarding profession.
Specific contributions of nurses in the pandemic
Kudos to nurses for their efforts in combatting COVID-19 at their various locations in the country. Some of the roles nurses play in the ongoing pandemic across the globe include:
triaging /early detection, clinical care; advocacy; contact tracing; educating the public on prevention; symptom management; disease progression monitoring; nutrition; exercise advice psychological support; and coordinating the work of other healthcare professionals to meet patient care goals
According to the International Council of Nurses (ICN), strong health systems and strong nursing association go hand-in-hand. What we are seeing is NNAs across the world stepping up to lead management coordination of the COVID-19 response efforts. The Lagos State Chapter of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) is not an exception in this regards. I would like to appreciate the Chairman, Lagos State NANNM, Nurse Israel Blessing and her team, for their efforts in involvement in health policy, public and patient safety, and containment of the virus.
They have also being actively involved in critical advocacy roles on behalf of the nursing workforce by providing guidelines for the professional team; giving of advice to the public to combat COVID-19; investigating how many nurses and other healthcare workers have acquired COVID-19; requesting for incentive for nurses, being part of emergency committee set-up by the government; providing best practice guidelines; conducting research and rendering support to the frontline workers with PPE and others.
Beyond 2020 theme
Indeed, the nursing response to the coronavirus (COVID -19) crisis has gone way beyond the core purpose of 2020 as the International Year of the Nurses and Midwives. The work put in by nurses in the COVID-19 crisis is a powerful and practical demonstration of the potential that nurses possess, to address big healthcare challenges, which the theme of the nurses’ day this year aims to achieve.
Nurses have proved to be the health warriors who have taken on the responsibility very willingly with their heart and soul. The profession is central to tackling the pandemic and, nurses in every country have “stepped up and stepped beyond” their calling.
They are working in the forefront and are managing patient screenings, placement, as well the care of patients in the COVID zone. Nurses are working round the clock, pushing themselves to the limit and putting their lives on the line, very often with limited resources.
The nature of the coronavirus disease is such that it entails visiting restrictions to the admitted patient because of the fear of rapid spread of infection. At critical moments like this, it is the nurses who are holding the responsibility and accountability for providing reassurance to patients and networking between the patients’ needs and all other departments in the hospital.
The entire nursing community is in the risk zone and we have all seen the unprecedented levels of overwork by nurses, particularly those in intensive care units, those in management or those most directly involved in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, oftentimes without adequate rest and recuperation, without support and assistance, with limited considerations for their mental health and wellbeing. However, these responsibilities, accountability and challenges are so willingly and happily accepted by nurses.
Reasons for high morbidity/mortality of health workers
Following the development of the infection by several healthcare workers who reported contacting the virus from laboratory-confirmed patients in healthcare, household, or community settings, the majority reported contact that occurred in healthcare settings.
However, there were also known exposures in households and in the community, highlighting the potential for exposure in multiple settings, especially as community transmission increases. Further, transmission might come from unrecognised sources, including presymptomatic or asymptomatic persons.
Investigation conducted on the causes of morbidity and mortality of healthcare workers during the pandemic shows the following factors as responsible for it: Long-time exposure; exposure to unsuspected cases at our OPD; casualty and emergency department; shortage of PPE; inadequate training; lack of professional supervision; work overload; direct contact with contaminated surfaces; exposure to airways and oral cavity and pre-existing conditions, among others.
NANNM’s role in reduction of infection among nurses
Continuous involvement in health policy, public and patient policy and containment of the virus.Provision of guidance on clinical practice, safety and quality of care.Playing critical advocacy roles on behalf of the nursing workforce to ensure their support and protection.
Government’s role in reduction of infection
The pandemic is an eye opener to the state of our health sector. Who knew that a time like this would come when our moneybags and politicians would be compelled to use our local hospitals?
The COVID-19 era experience has shown that allocation of more resources to our healthcare services is required. It has also revealed the need for local manufacturing of PPE, more funding for the health system, purposely built infectious disease hospital, scaling up of laboratory capacity, as well as other surveillance capacities.
Governments, at all levels, are expected to improve communication and coordination strategy in their healthcare delivery system, improve welfare of healthcare workers, invest in state -of –the -art equipment, research and others.
By Olurotimi Julius Awojide