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COVID-19 Talking Points for Patient Education

Whether on the front lines or caring for a neighbor, nurses are a valuable asset, especially in times of crisis. They can provide scientific, accurate and timely information to patients, caregivers and the public. The following talking points offer some ideas for COVID-19 patient and caregiver education.

COVID-19 Name

The name COVID-19 tells you about the illness. The “CO” in COVID-19 is for coronavirus, the “VI” stands for virus, and the “D” represents disease. The “19” is for 2019. COVID-19 is a virus, not a bacterial infection. Antibiotics do not work against viruses.

COVID-19 Prevention

COVID-19 prevention starts with A, B, C.

  • A = Away. Stay away from people not in your house. Social distance 6 feet (about two arms’ length) between people both indoors and outdoors such as during work and school, a family BBQ or a grocery store trip. As the virus spreads through coughing, sneezing or talking, six feet is the minimum distance, and more spacing is even better.
  • B = Breath. Cover your breath, from both the nose and mouth, with a mask. Only N95 specially fitted masks totally block the virus, and these need to be available for healthcare workers caring for infected patients. A surgical mask or triple-fabric face mask works well for the public. Try not to touch your face, glasses or the mask itself while wearing it. Wash fabric masks daily, and let surgical masks dry for five days in a paper sack. This means you will need multiple masks. Perhaps keep one in the car, one at each door, and one in your purse or backpack. Label masks on the inside with your initials and the day of the week.
  • C = Clean. Clean your hands. Any hand soap will work. The key is frequent washing and being sure to target the area between the fingers and around the thumb for at least 20 seconds. Handwashing is critical before handling any food and after visiting the bathroom or using a tissue.

It helps to think of the above three prevention measures as forming a camera tripod. Without all three legs, the camera cannot stand.

COVID-19 Symptoms

COVID-19 symptoms are different for everyone. Common symptoms include fever, muscle aches, taste or smell changes, sore throat, dry cough and shortness of breath. Call your primary doctor first unless you have severe problems like breathing issues, chest pain, or confusion and need urgent or emergency medical care. Write down your symptoms, the time and what you did about them.

COVID-19 Testing

In most cases, you do not need a doctor’s order or prescription to get COVID-19 testing. Know the differences between the two tests: COVID-19 testing and antibody testing. The COVID-19 test tells you if you have the virus now, while the antibody tests if you had the virus and now have immune cells against it. Find a reliable PCR (molecular-based) test. With over 60 tests existing (some not FDA-approved), many are not accurate. Be sure to have a professional do the test. If you test yourself, you may not go back far enough into the nose or throat.  

Testing Positive

When someone thinks they might have COVID-19, they need to isolate for two weeks at home. If they test positive, they need to stay in their room at all times, away from other household members. All members of the household need to stay home so as not to infect others. Assign the sick person their own bathroom if possible. Bring food, drinks and medicine to the door, then leave before they open it. Use plastic silverware and paper cups that can be thrown away in a large trash can inside their room. Try to have one parent or caregiver who does not interact with anyone else take care of the sick person. Only clean the sick person’s room or bathroom if dirty and use gloves and a mask that can be thrown away.

After COVID-19 Isolation

When you return to work will depend on where you work and who you will be around. In some cases, you will need two negative tests in a row, at least 24 hours apart, to be able to go back to work.

Nurses play an integral role in educating patients, caregivers and the community. During times of stress, even highly educated individuals need clear instructions without medical jargon. Nurses who give good instructions can help patients and caregivers absorb important information to fight COVID-19.

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


Scientific American: Nurses Are Playing a Crucial Role in this Pandemic — As Always

Lehigh Valley Health Network: Bacterial vs. Viral Infections and COVID-19

World Health Organization: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Advice for the Public: Mythbusters

CDC: COVID-19: Social Distancing

CDC: COVID-19: What to Do If You Are Sick

CDC: COVID-19: Criteria for Return to Work for Healthcare Personnel with SARS-CoV-2 Infection

American Nurses Association: COVID-19 Resource Center: Patient Education

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