By Bethany Lindberg
Undoubtedly, the Covid-19 pandemic has proven itself to be a game changer for the healthcare industry; perhaps the most stressful one. Just as if there wasn’t enough sickness in the world, the virus hit and spread unapologetically fast. People everywhere now find themselves in a situation where they have to focus on the health of others around them, even strangers, rather than of themselves only; welcome to the lives of healthcare workers. Focusing solely on the changes nurses had to undergo during this pandemic, one can see the great stresses and responsibilities the profession carries. Among the rest, nurses stand out in the healthcare field simply due to their caring nature; they strive to help those who cannot help themselves. This job is difficult as it is, let alone during a global pandemic. In this essay, I will be focusing on my aunt Diana, a nurse for the Air Force Active Duty in New Hampshire, and how Covid-19 affects the way she works. Luckily, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with her in depth about this topic in order to obtain a more detailed insight. Her experience provides a new perspective on how the virus is handled in regards to healthcare.
Much like everyone else’s, Diana’s first impression on Covid-19 was that it wasn’t going to be a big deal or a major issue. However, in the beginning there was so much about the virus that was unknown and some didn’t know what to think. Normally, nurses are used to taking the all-hands-on-deck approach to situations; whether this may be helping out with bedside nursing, screening, triaging, and assisting peers as needed (“Specialty Nursing in a Pandemic”). It is always important to act quick and be focused. While talking with Diana, I found that for nurses working for the Air Force with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, this method was certainly put into practice once the virus hit. She explains, “The Department acted quickly. Since Covid-19 is a communicable disease that spreads rapidly, immediate action was necessary. They requested help through the governor to get assistance through the national guard.” She explains here the importance of contacting tracing for the New Hampshire public health, (“New Hampshire Dept.”). “All governors had to ask the president for federal funds to support the mission. By April we were activated full time, so it all happened very quickly,” (Tanner). Evidently, the fast “all-hands-on-deck” approach was executed during the birth and sprout of the virus; nurses everywhere, especially those working for the Air Force Active Duty, had to act quick and be fully committed to their work. Their caring nature definitely came into play considering the circumstances.
While diving deeper into the subject of nurses adapting to change, it is vital to think about the patients: how they initially reacted to Covid-19, how they’re handling it, what they think about it, and more. Nurses always help patients and treat them with the best possible care they can provide, which includes listening to their thoughts and feelings on certain matters. When I asked Diana about her experience with patients reacting to the virus, she described:
Once I started talking to them about it, a good amount were angry and didn’t want to be investigated because they thought that Covid-19 wasn’t going to be a problem. They were resistant to follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and emphasized that they didn’t want us (nurses) to violate HIPAA by doing investigations. So, I had to explain to them that it is important that we investigate because Covid-19 is a threatening disease that needs to be reported. It’s very serious (Tanner).
Although some patients may be difficult to deal with, nurses have to approach these situations both gently and firmly; they have to be very informative in order to provide the best care that they can. However, currently this is done primarily through non-face-to-face visits such as telehealth, video calls, photography, and telephone calls (“Specialty Nursing in a Pandemic”). For her job, Diana utilizes telehealth to get her work done; she provides her care and talks to her patients through technology like many other nurses. She explains:
I care for my patients over the phone. I talk to about 5-6 patients per day with a full investigation (job, close contacts, where they live, symptoms, etc.). The biggest difference between doing my job before the virus versus doing my job now is that guidelines have changed drastically. Once we learned more about the virus, we were able to provide patients with more accurate information on how to care for them. We always like to give the best guidance to hopefully slow/stop the spread. We have more resources for them now; some of us even help them with everyday errands such as groceries so that they can stay home safely, (Tanner).
While utilizing the methods given to them by the CDC’s guidelines, nurses can now give the best care they can through non-in-person visits. Thus, prioritizing the health and safety of the patient and those around them.
Considering the many layers this job enfolds during the pandemic, nursing has definitely proved itself to be challenging. Nurses strive to always be flexible, caring, and genuine with their desire to help others (Nursing in a Pandemic). They have to adapt to change all the time. When I was talking with Diana, I found that this is one of the most difficult parts about her job currently. She expresses:
Keeping up with the guidelines can be challenging. Throughout the whole process of learning more about Covid-19, information we gather (from patients, statistics, etc.) go to the CDC and therefore there’s always changes. New guidelines can be difficult because you never want to give patients false information. It’s also hard when you’re dealing with people that ask a lot of insightful questions about the virus that make you think about it. Sometimes I have to contact my colleagues or my supervisor in order to provide them with the most accurate information I can. Overall it’s a challenging job. (Tanner).
Evidently, being a nurse during the pandemic is not easy; especially since there’s constant changes in guidelines as new information about the virus is gathered. (New Hampshire Dept.). The profession definitely requires an immense amount of care, concern, deep thinking, quick learning, and much more in order to do it the best possible way. Covid-19 has successfully shifted nursing from a difficult job, to a very difficult job to do.
Considering the fact that nursing is a challenging profession to do during a pandemic, it is safe to say that perhaps the virus has impacted nurses in negative ways. To test this idea out, I asked Diana how Covid-19 affected her both personally and professionally. Her answer follows:
Professionally, it has honestly helped me. It’s been an excellent boost in my career because there’s a need for people who have the knowledge and training it takes in order to do my job. Personally, it’s been a little challenging because since I primarily work from home there’s less opportunities to get out of the house. Sometimes it can get lonely when you’re only going out to do your job. (Tanner).
It’s become clear that the virus has impacted everyone’s personal lives in some sort of negative way, whether it be insignificant or major. I figured that especially for an essential nurse, work can take its toll mentally, socially, or both. It just goes to show that nursing can be that much more difficult when considering the personal challenges they may face on a daily basis solely due to Covid-19.
Overall, nursing is a hard job to do as it is, now made even harder thanks to the pandemic. Nurses do not get enough credit for all the hard work they do all the time. Especially nowadays, they have to change the way that they care for patients as well as the means for doing so in order to promote the health and safety of patients and everyone in general. After talking with Diana, I have gained much more respect for nurses and all those working in healthcare right now. It is not easy adapting to change.
“New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19.” Home | COVID-19, www.nh.gov/covid19/.
“Specialty Nursing in a Pandemic: Adapting to Change.” WoundSource, 21 May 2020, www.woundsource.com/blog/specialty-nursing-in-pandemic-adapting-change.
Tanner, Diana. Personal Interview. 17 Nov. 2020.