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COVID-19: How Nurses Can Help

Nurses have a vital role in the fight against COVID-19. Some will be on the front lines. Many will help COVID-19 survivors, patients, neighbors or even family members, while others help caregivers who lost someone to the disease. Nurses will be there to help people before, during and after COVID-19.

Before COVID-19

How can you support people before they get COVID-19?

There is plenty of fake coronavirus information: Take this vitamin; insist on this medication. For some, their only source of information is social media or “my neighbor’s nephew, who is in the medical field.” An unreliable source can do more harm than good. Nurses can be the voice of reason on social media and help stop fake propaganda videos and other news.

Spread information you know to be correct outside your own circle. Reinforce prevention measures with specific details on social distancing, masks and hygiene. Let your community and your own loved ones know who the real COVID-19 experts are. Point them to credible resources such as these:

Nurses working with vulnerable patients (e.g. HIV, cancer or long-term care) are not only protecting them against the outside world, but against hidden enemies such as depression, loneliness, anxiety, boredom and frustration.

During COVID-19

What is one of the most essential things nurses can do for patients with COVID-19?

Resoundingly what patients with or without COVID-19 appreciate most is communication. Caregivers and patients alike are grateful to nurses who find ways for isolated patients to connect with their loved ones.

Tablets and smartphones are helping healthcare staff help COVID-19 patients in new ways. A tablet mounted to an IV pole can help patients talk with loved ones. The tablets can also provide on-demand access to interpreters for non-native English-speaking patients and can be used to consult with dietitians, social workers, and pharmacists.

After COVID-19

What type of support is available for COVID-19 survivors?

COVID-19 can be a prolonged illness, even for younger adults. Many patients experience fatigue for months. They are anxious about what “full recovery” looks like or if they will ever get back to “normal.” Many fear long-term complications, even if they did not have symptoms. There are online support groups helping those with depression, anxiety or grief due to COVID-19.

Some survivors are experiencing fearful responses or even being shunned by their community. For some, there is a permanent stigma, even if they remain healthy after a positive test. Survivors are turning to online support groups like Survivor Corps to arm themselves against discrimination. Survivor Corps is a grassroots movement to connect COVID-19 survivors with medical, scientific and academic research communities.

COVID-19 Deaths

How can you support caregivers who have lost someone to COVID-19?

Streaming end-of-life care can help caregivers be with the patient during their final moments. Even extended family from multiple locations can be virtually present. However, not being able to mourn someone’s death in person or have a funeral or memorial can hurt the grieving process.

The CDC Grief and Loss website offers resources with practical ideas for connecting with other people, creating memories, and asking for help. Online support groups are filling in the gaps of in-person groups.

For example, Good Grief offers virtual support groups for grieving families. The nonprofit provides unlimited and free support to children, teens, young adults, and families after a loved one’s death through peer support programs, education and advocacy.

Also, Good Grief offers resources and peer support for medical professionals. Some may want to visually show their grief or take up a cause.

Grief support podcasts are a way to find help and comfort at a difficult time in one’s life.

Around the world, nurses are helping people prevent, overcome and recover from COVID-19. They continue to explore ways to facilitate communication despite physical distancing and isolation measures. Some nurses are dealing with their own sadness while making end-of-life care as meaningful as possible. Many nurses will also help relieve the suffering and distress by directing those left behind to grief support services or bereavement care. Just like with HIV and cancer, nurses can work to fight the irrational or negative attitudes, behaviors, judgments and stigma associated with COVID-19.

Learn more about La Salle University’s online RN to BSN program.

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