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20 Ways Nurses Helped the World Through a Pandemic

Explore the various ways nurses helped the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we know it. And as case numbers climbed, hospitals throughout the U.S. and abroad neared—and often surpassed—capacity. During this time, registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners showed up in a big way. Without these essential workers who put their lives on the line day in and day out, the already grim reality of the COVID-19 pandemic would’ve likely been much, much worse. But their efforts extended far beyond providing routine patient care, as they took on additional responsibilities that inevitably helped the world when it was needed most.

20 Ways Nurses Helped the World Through a Pandemic

1. Coming out of retirement.
Many retired nurses answered the call to action during the COVID-19 crisis, serving on the front lines once again.

2. Taking 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. Working longer hours/more shifts.
In a 2021 update, the International Council of Nurses announced that national nursing associations had consistently received reports of nurses increasing working hours during the COVID-19 pandemic.1

4. Spreading 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. Providing emotional support.
Not only did nurses provide medical care and treatment, but they also extended emotional support to patients and families during the pandemic. In some cases, this included serving as messengers for hospitalized patients who could not see family members due to safety protocols.

6. Conducting home visits.
For immunocompromised and/or housebound individuals, COVID-19 posed a particularly dangerous threat. In these instances, many nurses and physicians conducted at-home visits to provide quality care and ensure the safety of these patients.

7. Leading public health initiatives/operations
Beyond sharing key insights on COVID-19, some nurse practitioners and RNs actually led public health initiatives and operations in their local communities, including mobile screening and testing services.

8. Promoting CDC guidance.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continued to expand upon its COVID-19 guidelines, nurses worked to stay abreast of the latest updates and ensure the public remained aware of evolving safety protocols.

9. Emphasizing 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 alike.

10. Instituting 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. Assisting in decontamination.
Sanitation is a top priority for hospitals and clinics. During the pandemic, the decontamination process required an all-hands-on-deck approach more than ever before, which meant nurses heavily assisted in the cleaning and disinfecting of facilities.

12. Combating vaccine hesitancy.
As long as vaccines have existed, so has vaccine hesitancy. Armed with industry knowledge and access to the first round of doses, RNs and nurse practitioners helped to combat this hesitancy by addressing concerns and documenting their own vaccination experiences.

13. Maintaining PPE supplies.
Acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE) was a major challenge during the pandemic, even for nurses who were directly treating patients with coronavirus. In fact, a study by the American Nurses Association found that even 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. Handling vaccine storage.
In addition to promoting the COVID-19 vaccination to patients and the public, nurses were also responsible for meeting handling and storage requirements, including keeping vaccines at the proper temperature and monitoring expiration dates.

15. Collaborating 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 pandemic, interprofessional collaboration was a primary focus for nurses in order to provide the most well-informed, patient-centered care possible amid a global health crisis.

16. Participating in telehealth services.
For individuals in need of routine, noninvasive care—such as a yearly checkup—appointments were conducted via telehealth. In addition to in-person treatment, nurses all over the world helped meet the growing demand for virtual screenings by participating in telehealth services at their facility.

17. Advocating for enhanced patient care.
In the face of a 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. Practicing self-care.
Nurses can only be at the top of their game when they take good care of themselves. Engaging in self-care practices—like meditating, exercising, and joining a support group—during the pandemic positioned RNs and nurse practitioners to continue providing the best patient care possible.

19. Providing leadership and training.
Some nurses had just entered the field when COVID-19 hit, while others joined the ranks mid-pandemic. Seasoned RNs and nurse practitioners helped lead the way for less experienced professionals, providing on-site training and guidance despite the chaos caused by an ongoing global health crisis.

20. Keeping hope.
One of the best ways nurses helped the world through the pandemic was by simply remaining hopeful. As hospitalizations soared and times grew increasingly uncertain, nurses worked to maintain a positive outlook and build toward a healthier, happier future.

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1Source: www.icn.ch/sites/default/files/inline-files/ICN%20COVID19%20update%20report%20FINAL.pdf
2Source: www.nursingworld.org/~4a558d/globalassets/covid19/ana-ppe-survey-one-pager---final.pdf
3Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Based on the most recent year of completions survey data available, using CIP code family 51.38 “Registered Nursing, Nursing Administration, Nursing Research, and Clinical Nursing” for Master’s degrees (Award level 7). Available at https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/use-the-data. (Retrieved January 2021; may consist of or include provisional release data.)

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