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Heroes on the Frontline of the Pandemic

Written by Emily Pazel

 

While many Americans, and people around the world, have been asked to stay home in self-isolation to combat the ever-spreading coronavirus or COVID-19, healthcare workers have been placed on the frontline of this growing pandemic and have continued to go to work every shift in order to protect the people we love the most.

With all 50 states within the U.S. having reported cases of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone is being affected in one way or another. From schools, restaurants and several other businesses closing, to the millions of people working from home, everyone is working to help slow the spread of the virus that has reached an overwhelming global total of 300,000+ cases. 

But what about the nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers that are showing up to work every day, and in some cases working overtime, to help care for the patients seeking recovery from this potentially deadly virus? With the dangerous threat of the coronavirus’s person-to-person spread, what are healthcare workers doing to protect themselves? Let’s catch a glimpse of some of the more pressing issues nurses are facing and what’s being done to resolve them.

What are the concerns nurses are facing?

One of the biggest concerns that nurses, along with other healthcare workers, face during this spreading pandemic is exposure to the virus. Currently, several frontline healthcare workers in the U.S. have been exposed, are being monitored for exposure or in severe cases, are being quarantined for their safety and for the safety of spreading the virus to others. And with the growing number of positive patients entering doctor’s offices, clinics and hospitals, this trend will likely continue and possibly accelerate in the coming weeks and months.

Another big crisis that healthcare workers are facing is the shortages of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), used to protect yourself while touching, caring for and just generally coming into contact with infected coronavirus patients. 

To try to best resolve these issues, hospitals and clinics around the country are rapidly adjusting their standard operating procedures while facing this ever-changing pandemic. In some places, non-clinical spaces are being repurposed to see patients, and staff might be called upon to serve in roles that they were not responsible for when first hired on. In most hospitals and clinics, screenings are being put into place for staff and other personnel entering the facility to check for basic underlying symptoms of the virus. 

As hospitals and clinics continue to see a shortage in PPE, especially in states that have been hit the hardest such as Washington, California and New York, health systems have been put in place to preserve and make the most out of the equipment they have while they wait for more supplies to come. 

On top of PPE shortages and having a higher chance of being exposed, healthcare workers also have to deal with a high-stress level of fear and panic in their work environment. Not only might they be asked to work extra hours, but they will also start to take on a heavier workload, seeing more patients as the virus continues to spread. As nurses and other healthcare professionals take on this pandemic, the increase of burnout in the workplace could become more severe. 

In the coming weeks and months as we continue to see the spread of the virus with more positive cases, it’s important for healthcare workers, as well as the general public, to follow the health and safety guidelines set up by the CDC. This way, we can slowly curb the spread and help those who might be more vulnerable to contracting the virus and having severe symptoms.

What guidelines should healthcare workers be following?

In the beginning of March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus disease 2019 as a global pandemic, marking it a serious public health risk as it can cause mild to severe illnesses to those that become infected by the person-to-person spread. 

Due to the severity of the pandemic, CEUfast has decided to make its “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)” course available at no cost. In accordance with the CDC guidelines, CEUfast has created a course that provides healthcare professionals with the knowledge to prevent, identify and treat COVID-19.

While working with patients that are being evaluated with a fever and acute respiratory illness, healthcare professionals should obtain a detailed travel history, as it is believed that symptoms may not appear until as long as 14 days after the initial exposure. 

When taking the CEUfast Coronavirus Course, you’ll encounter informative information to better aide you through this pandemic:

"In confirmed COVID-19 infections, symptoms range from mild to death. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Based on the limited available information, respiratory distress develops about day 8. Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) developed in 17–29% of hospitalized patients, and a secondary infection developed in 10%.

CDC has developed a new Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase (RT)-PCR Diagnostic Panel laboratory test kit for use in testing patient specimens for COVID-19. These kits require the use of specialized equipment and software."

The course also explains how to ensure facility policies and practices that will minimize exposures to respiratory pathogens, such as measures that can be implemented before patient arrival, upon arrival and throughout the duration of the affected person’s stay in the healthcare setting. 

As a healthcare professional, your main objective is to keep your patients healthy and safe, but in order to do that, you must also keep yourself safe. 

While caring for patients with confirmed or possible COIVD-19 cases, healthcare personnel should follow the recommended infection prevention and control guidelines:

  • Assess and triage the patients with acute respiratory symptoms and risk factors for COVID-19 to minimize chances of exposure, including placing a facemask on the patient and placing them in an examination room with the door closed.
  • Use Standard and Transmission-Based Precautions when caring for patients with confirmed or possible COVID-19.
  • Perform hand hygiene with alcohol-based hand rub before and after all patient contact, contact with potentially infectious material, and before putting on and upon removal of PPE, including gloves. Use soap and water if hands are visibly soiled.
  • Practice how to properly don, use, and doff PPE in a manner to prevent self-contamination.
  • Perform aerosol-generating procedures, in an AIIR, while following appropriate IPC practices, including use of appropriate PPE.

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While working amid this pandemic, if you believe that you have an unprotected exposure to a confirmed or possible COVID-19 patient, you should contact your supervisor or occupational health service immediately. And if you start to develop symptoms that are consistent with the virus, you should contact your occupational health services right away and stay home to prevent the spread of the virus.

So, while some professions, such as nurses, doctors and other healthcare-related professionals, are put on the frontlines and are at higher risk of exposure to the coronavirus, there are other jobs also in harm's way. During this time of unprecedented hardship, other jobs that could be at risk include transportation drivers, pilots or operators, medical equipment preparers, EMT’s, paramedics, firefighters and other first responders, trucking and delivery services, utility workers, cashiers in grocery stores and bank tellers.

In one-way or another, everyone is feeling the effects of this seemingly uncontrollable outbreak and pandemic, and we will most likely be enduring its effects for the unforeseeable future. However, taking the correct precautions and slowing the spread of the virus is the key to resolving this pandemic with time.

CEUfast wants to thank all of the nurses, doctors and other healthcare-related professionals that are working each and every day to help keep us and our loved ones safe.