Jessica rainbow, University of Arizona; Chloe Littzen, Portland University, and Claire Bethel, University of Arizona

Nurses rose to the challenge of caring for patients during the pandemic and more 1,150 of us have died from COVID-19 in the US As cases and deaths increase, nurses continue to work in a broken system minimal support and resources to care for seriously ill patients, many of whom will die.

we are Nurses and nursing scientists who studying nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of our studies that asks Health care workers to share voicemails about her experience with care during the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing. In our studies, we have found that caregivers struggle and may abandon care altogether without the help of both public and health systems.

To help you understand their experience, here are the top five takeaways from our studies of care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. Calling nurses “heroes” is a harmful narrative

Nurses have proven that they will do almost anything for their patients, even risk their own life. From the end of December 2020, more than 1.6 million healthcare workers infected with COVID-19 worldwide, caregivers represent the largest affected group in many countries.

Therefore, Nurses were celebrated as heroes. However, this can be a dangerous label with negative consequences. With this heroic narrative, expectations of what caregivers should be doing become unrealistic, such as: insufficient resources, personnel and safety precautions. As a result, it becomes normal for nurses to work longer hours or extra shifts without considering how this might affect them personally.

The heroic narrative surrounding nurses could worsen burnout. AP Photo / Gerald Herbert

This could ultimately lead to caregivers leaving the job because of burnouts. A survey of over 6,000 critical care workers conducted by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses found that 66% of respondents are considering leaving nursing due to their care experience during the pandemic. We also found that 67% of nurses under 30 consider leaving your organization within the next two years.

The nurses in our studies put the needs of their patients and society above their own. This is how a young nurse described her experience caring for COVID-19 patients without any safety information: “There was a noticeable tension there … nobody knew what was going on or what was expected. There was no real protocol yet. When a patient was admitted and you had to take care of you, you had the feeling that you were being thrown into the wolves as an attempt. “

2. Nurses lack adequate resources or support

Nurses took care of patients despite their jobs dangerous work environments. While some health organizations have offered higher pay for travel nurses, or employed temporary nurses to resolve staffing bottlenecks, this offer has not been extended to their full-time employees. Instead, many organizations require overtime and insufficient resources. like personal protective equipment or Support staff, for safe patient care. This has left many nurses feeling unappreciated, undervalued, and insecure.

The inadequate institutional support during the pandemic meant that nurses had to work long hours in dangerous conditions. Alvaro Calvo / Stringer via Getty Images News

As one nurse explained from our study, “Lack of resources, lack of staff, not enough attention to all of our concerns, things like that. It is very exhausting, especially when we are supposed to take care of patients and do a good job. … All the drama from work and stuff like that, it doesn’t help. If anything, it definitely only makes the environment more toxic and unbearable, and at some point it will … affect your mental and physical health, even your mental health. “

3. Nurses have lost trust in health organizations

Nurses said they had problems with Rapidly changing policies and procedures. Even when informed of these changes, many health organizations were not transparent about the reasons for them and expected the nurses to just play with the beatings.

Worse still, some health organizations cheered on nurses because they were concerned for their own safety. For example, one young inpatient nurse described frustrations about a lack of communication from management: “You just haven’t told us much. We have three managers and seven clinical coordinators in our department. There were definitely enough people to send emails and give updates, but they were also so insecure that they just opted for radio silence, which was really frustrating and made the whole situation even more difficult. When they gave us information, much of it was that you were overreacting. You don’t have to wear N95s all the time. “

The safety sacrifices that nurses have made for their organizations and patients have resulted in severe psychological consequences. In a study of 472 nurses in California, 79.7% reported anxiety and 19% met clinical criteria for major depression.

Another nurse in our study had a similar experience: “Our guidelines changed so quickly that anesthesia often had a different understanding.” [of the policy]The doctors and residents had a different understanding, and the nurses would always have received a different email within about half an hour. It was extremely frustrating. It was very, very stressful. “

4. Nurses experience morally traumatic events

Nurses are a significant amount of moral harmthat occurs when they experience, maintain, or fail to prevent something that contradicts their beliefs and expectations.

Not only have caregivers experienced a high number of deaths each day, but they have also been placed in morally difficult situations due to a lack of resources, such as: Oxygen supply, ECMO machines that support the heart and lung function and Hospital beds and staff. Even more routine aspects of care, such as basic hygiene, have been neglectedwhich further contributes to the moral plight of care.

Nurse bent with her head in her hands.The moral harm nurses suffer can affect their mental health. AP Photo / Hanin Najjar

One nurse in our study described her experience of moral distress in life support decisions for patients: “We were told very early on … if this person needs a ventilator, they will not get it. So in a sense we determined the code status without actually consulting the patient, which is very problematic and unethical for me. “

5. Nurses are frustrated that the public is not taking the pandemic seriously

Masks and Vaccinations proven to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. But some Americans still refuse to mask, and from November 1st, 2021, only 67% of the population received at least one dose of the vaccine.

According to the CDC, 92% of COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions and 91% of COVID-19-related deaths were among those who not fully vaccinated between April and July 2021. Conversely, only 8% of COVID-19 cases and 9% of deaths involved fully vaccinated people.

Nurses care for patients regardless of their vaccination status. Unfortunately, what the public is not aware of is that their decision to refuse vaccinations or masking has serious consequences not only for caregivers, but also for their friends and community members. When hospital systems are overloaded with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, there may be limited staff or resources to help those in need Care for other medical emergencies. This is a frustrating experience for caregivers unable to care for every patient in need and protect people from contracting COVID-19.

Nurse in the intensive care unit hugs the nurse of the patient who has just passed away.Not only do nurses see large numbers of COVID-19 deaths firsthand, they may need to bring comfort to the bereaved as well. AP Photo / Gerald Herbert

A nurse in one of our studies recalled chasing after an unvaccinated pregnant person with COVID-19 who, despite the risk of infecting other people, wanted to leave the intensive care unit against medical advice: “It was so early [in the pandemic], we didn’t know how far [the virus] would travel. So does it infect the lobby staff? Are there people down there? You know, she’ll just go home and give that to her newborn. And … her husband looked at me and said, basically western medicine is not real and this is not real and I think OK this is real. And I would give it to your newborn and your five children. “

Here’s how you can help caregivers

As the pandemic continues to overwhelm hospitals and communities across the United States, its impact on caregivers must be carefully weighed. Exhausted and demoralized nurses are quit or retire at alarming rates.

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Time will tell what long-term effects the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the nursing profession. But the public sector and health organizations can now take action to help caregivers by improving access to psychosocial support and by providing adequate resources, safe working conditions and organizational transparency in times of immense change. And anyone can help by protecting themselves from COVID-19 through masking and vaccination.

Jessica rainbow, Assistant Professor of Nursing, University of Arizona; Chloe Littzen, Assistant Professor of Nursing, Portland University, and Claire Bethel, Lecturer for Nursing, University of Arizona

This article is republished by The conversation under a Creative Commons license. read this original article.