The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the field of nursing is significant, with the approach to educational strategies, staffing and patient care changing for nurses as a result.
The pandemic impacted working conditions for nurses, from skewed nurse-patient ratios to repeated virus exposure. Burnout and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) became significant concerns. These impacts on the healthcare workforce created opportunities for nurses to serve as change agents.
How Can Nurses Prepare for Life After COVID-19?
The pandemic called on nurses to summon every ounce of knowledge, tenacity and compassion they could muster. Continuing in this vein is necessary for nurses to create positive change as society looks to the future. Sweeping reforms are anticipated at nearly every level, from nursing education to community outreach. Nurses should engage in these processes whenever they can as their participation, feedback and insight not only facilitate their own healing, but also ensure others have access to critical resources. These initiatives may include:
Targeted mental health programs. Although many hospitals and healthcare organizations already had mental health services in place for their staff, they have expanded such services or made adjustments in response to the pandemic. This has led some facilities to shift to support services that are more immediately available, such as dedicated quiet rooms, debriefing sessions and psychologists on-site or just a phone call or text away. Nurses are strongly encouraged to seek out or request mental health services.
Enhanced curricula. Nursing program curricula are expected to dive deeper into several key topics for bachelor’s degrees and beyond. Surge planning, infection control methods, disaster preparedness and epidemiology will likely garner more attention in didactic and clinical coursework in addition to self-care, trauma survival, ethics and cross-cultural understanding. Nurse leadership coursework and experiential opportunities may move to the forefront so that nurses are prepared to engage with administrators to enact workplace changes.
Attempts to address health inequities. The pandemic exposed significant healthcare inequities. Prioritizing the establishment of a diverse nursing workforce that is representative of the patient population is imperative. Community-based planning initiatives can help identify overlooked social needs and create resources to support our most vulnerable populations.
A Promising Future
COVID-19 has posed unprecedented challenges for modern nursing practice. However, as vaccination distribution increases, nurses can begin to reflect on their experiences and the lessons learned. By utilizing available mental health services, sharing their insights and continuing their education, particularly in leadership and community health, nurses can position themselves to create a more equitable and resilient healthcare system.
Learn more about UL Lafayette’s online RN to BSN program.