20 Ways Nurses Helped the World Through a Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we know it. And as case numbers climbed in 2020, hospitals throughout the U.S. and abroad neared—and often surpassed—capacity. During this time, registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners answered the call for help in a big way. Without these essential workers who put their lives on the line day in and day out, the grim reality of the COVID-19 pandemic would likely have been much, much worse. But their efforts extended far beyond providing routine patient care—nurses took on additional responsibilities that tapped into their greater potential and inevitably helped the world when it was needed most.
20 Ways Nurses Helped the World Through a Pandemic
1. Came out of retirement
Many retired nurses answered the call to action during the COVID-19 crisis, serving on the front lines once again.
2. Undertook travel nursing positions
The coronavirus pandemic affected various industries, populations, and cities disproportionately. To provide vital care to communities hit the hardest, many practitioners took travel nursing positions—working at different hospitals for a few months at a time before moving on to the next place in need of support.
3. Worked longer hours/more shifts
In a 2021 update on the effects of the pandemic on the nursing workforce, the International Council of Nurses announced that national nursing associations consistently received reports of nurses increasing working hours.1
4. Spread knowledge and awareness
In addition to on-site duties, healthcare professionals far and wide—including RNs and nurse practitioners—shared knowledge and updates on the COVID-19 crisis as appropriate to help combat the spread of misinformation and the virus itself.
5. Provided emotional support
Not only did nurses provide medical care and treatment, but they also became a vital link between patients and families as the pandemic worsened, offering compassion and emotional support. In some cases, this included serving as messengers for hospitalized patients who could not see family members due to safety protocol..
6. Conducted home visits
For immunocompromised and/or housebound individuals, COVID-19 poses a particularly dangerous threat. Many nurses and physicians conducted at-home visits during the crisis to provide quality care and ensure the safety of those patients.
7. Led public health initiatives/operations
Beyond sharing key insights on COVID-19, some nurse practitioners and RNs are led public health initiatives and operations in their local communities, including mobile screening and testing services.
8. Promoted CDC guidance
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continued to update its COVID-19 guidelines, nurses stayed abreast of the latest developments and ensured that the public remained aware of evolving safety protocols.
9. Emphasized the importance of mental health
In addition to physical and emotional well-being, nurses made sure to emphasize the importance of addressing the effects of COVID-19 on mental health—for patients and practitioners alik.
10. Practiced self-isolation.
Because nurses work directly with patients, the pandemic inevitably put them at greater risk of contracting coronavirus. For this reason, many practitioners—particularly those working with COVID-19 patients and in critical care units—isolated from friends and family for months on end to keep everyone as safe as possible.
11. Assisted in decontamination
Sanitation is a top priority for hospitals and clinics. The pandemic made decontamination a critical process, requiring an all-hands-on-deck approach. Nurses stepped up in assisting with the cleaning and disinfecting of facilities.
12. Combated vaccine hesitancy
As long as vaccines have existed, so has vaccine hesitancy. Armed with industry knowledge, RNs and nurse practitioners helped to combat this hesitancy by addressing concerns and documenting their own vaccination experiences.
13. Maintained PPE supplies
Acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE) was a major challenge early in the pandemic, even for nurses who were directly treating patients with coronavirus. In fact, a study by the American Nurses Association found that six months into the pandemic, 58% of nurses reused masks for five days or more in order to maintain the supply of PPE as hospitals experienced shortages.2
14. Handled vaccine storage
In addition to promoting COVID-19 vaccination to patients and the public, nurses often were responsible for meeting handling-and-storage requirements, which included keeping vaccines at the proper temperature and monitoring expiration dates.
15. Collaborated with other medical professionals
Working with colleagues—whether doctors, specialists, or administrators—is crucial to the success of any healthcare facility. And during the COVID-19 crisis, interprofessional collaboration became a primary focus for nurses in order to provide the most well-informed, patient-centered care possible.
16. Participated in telehealth services
For individuals in need of routine, noninvasive care—such as a yearly checkup—appointments increasingly shifted toward being conducted via telehealth. Nurses all over the world helped meet the growing demand for virtual screenings by participating in telehealth services at their facility.
17. Advocated for enhanced patient care
In the face of the global pandemic, many issues were brought to light. From disparities in healthcare access to unethical services and practices, nurses continued to advocate on behalf of patients to ensure high-quality care was obtainable for all.
18. Promoted the need for self-care
Nurses can only be at the top of their game when they take good care of themselves. Self-care practices—like meditating, exercising, and joining a support group—during the pandemic helped RNs and nurse practitioners to continue providing the best patient care possible.
19. Provided leadership and training
Some nurses had just entered the field when COVID-19 hit, while others have joined the ranks as the pandemic continued. Seasoned RNs and nurse practitioners led the way for less-experienced professionals, providing on-site training and guidance despite the chaos caused by an ongoing global health crisis.
20. Remained hopeful
One of the best ways nurses helped the world through the worst of the pandemic was by simply maintaining hope. As cases climbed and new variants emerged, nurses worked to keep a positive outlook and build toward a healthier, happier future.
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3Source: Based on 2021 IPEDS data
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