As we gradually move into a post-COVID world, one thing is for certain: Things have changed. This is especially true in the healthcare sector. The nursing landscape has changed dramatically since the early days of the pandemic, and nurses have been forced to work amid constant regulatory changes, evolving facility policies and countless other changes.
They’ve pleaded with friends and loved ones to protect themselves against the COVID-19 virus, and they’ve worked alongside other healthcare professionals to provide direct care to sick patients. They have invested in the best men’s jogger scrubs to protect themselves and stay comfortable during seemingly endless shifts. Nurses have taken several steps to provide the care patients need despite the personal sacrifices they’ve had to make along the way.
The pandemic shone a spotlight on just how vital of a role nurses play in the healthcare situation. It also increased awareness of the burnout and fatigue that are so common among the individuals who have dedicated their lives to caring for others. COVID made the public more aware of the hazards nurses face every day when they put on their scrub dresses and go to work.
Even as we embrace a “new normal” and work to move past the fear and losses of the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that some things will never be the same. COVID has changed the nursing field in a multitude of ways — many of them positive. Read on to learn more about a few of the ways COVID has changed nursing forever.
1, Increased Public Awareness Regarding Nurses’ Safety and Importance
Most folks have always known that nurses are key components of the healthcare system. However, many of them never realized just how vital they truly are. In the early months of the pandemic, the public learned nurses didn’t have access to appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves from the virus. This, of course, sparked outrage and made people wonder why their healthcare heroes were forced to jeopardize their personal safety to care for others.
However, this also shed some light on just how long nurses have been working in unsafe situations without proper protection. Unsafe staffing ratios, violent patients and other occupational hazards have plagued the industry for decades and contributed to the nurse shortage.
The public has finally heard nurses’ demands for personal safety, and they’re taking things like burnout seriously. As hospitals struggled to keep enough nurses on staff during the pandemic, people have discovered just how much the entire healthcare industry relies on these dedicated professionals. Thanks to this increased public awareness, nursing will (hopefully) be safer in the future.
2. More Opportunities for Telehealth
The pandemic changed the ways in which patients receive care. Though the concept of telehealth was still in its infancy pre-COVID, the outbreak of the virus made remote healthcare essential. Legislators quickly adjusted regulations to make telehealth services more widely available so people could get the care they needed while remaining safe at home. Patients — especially those living in rural areas with limited healthcare options — have embraced this new technology, so telehealth won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
For nurses, working in telehealth means getting to provide exceptional one-on-one patient care without having to spend 12+ hours on their feet. Some telehealth nurses can even work from home, pick up part-time shifts or spend fewer hours working than they would in a traditional medical setting.
Telehealth expands access to care for patients and provides nurses with alternatives to working in hospitals, physicians’ offices, etc. It also minimizes nurses’ risk of exposure to viruses and bacteria.
3. Increased Access to Online Nursing Programs
Steps are being taken to help combat the nurse shortage and help prospective and current nursing students earn their degrees and licenses quickly and conveniently. More and more universities and colleges are offering online nursing programs to enhance accessibility. During shutdowns, online nursing programs also made it possible for students to continue their education even though campuses were closed.
Currently, many students are enrolled in hybrid programs that enable them to attend lectures online and perform fewer hours of in-person clinical work. While a degree of face-to-face learning is crucial, newer technologies are being developed to help nursing students learn at home. For example, virtual simulations are in development to enable students to work together from their own homes.
Online nursing education will likely remain common in a post-COVID world to help healthcare organizations overcome staff shortages. The accessibility and convenience of online schooling mean more nurses will be entering the workforce and filling vacant positions.
4. Additional Mental Health Resources for Nurses
Nurse burnout is nothing new. In fact, more than 35 percent of respondents in a 2019 survey experienced burnout symptoms long before the pandemic. It’s been a major problem in the healthcare industry for decades and is one of the causes of the nurse shortage. Finally, healthcare organizations are taking nurses’ complaints seriously and implementing strategies to help them overcome depression, compassion fatigue and burnout.
Many organizations now provide nurses with access to mental healthcare resources. Some have even created spaces in which nurses can relax and decompress in the middle of particularly stressful shifts. They’re prioritizing self-care and offering things like yoga classes and massages to encourage staff members to take care of themselves.
5. Greater Power to Advocate for Chang.
Nurses are taking charge of the healthcare industry and their careers more than ever before. The pandemic has proven that things can change in an instant and led to enhanced awareness of the challenges nurses face every day. Because of this, nursing professionals are standing up for themselves and advocating for change. They’re demanding safer working conditions, increased pay, better mental health policies, etc. And employers are taking note. They’re listening to what nurses have to say and adjusting policies to increase safety and reduce burnout. The COVID-19 pandemic gave nurses a voice, and people are listening.
The world will never be quite the same as it was prior to COVID. Nothing has been impacted more, though, than the healthcare industry. COVID has changed nursing forever, and policies will continue to change as we navigate a post-pandemic world.