Nursing and Post Pandemic Health Challenges

By Roberta Heale, Associate Editor EBN, @robertaheale @EBNursingBMJ

This International Year of the Nurse and Midwife has tested us like never before.  Although the world has been waiting for a pandemic, and there have been scares (SARS, MERS, Ebola), here we are with COVID 19.  Nurses the world over have packed away their celebratory banners and put on masks and shields. Some of us are working as never before, in dangerous and heart-breaking situations. Others are physically distanced from our vulnerable patients, doing our best to care for them without the benefit of proper assessments. Regardless of the situation, it is without a doubt that nurses have done what we always do, step right in and get the job done.  I couldn’t be prouder of my nursing colleagues and to be a nurse!

As much as nursing is meeting the challenge of COVID 19 in the full glare of the public spotlight, we’ll also be tending to the repercussions of these difficult times, long after the cameras have turned away.  Some are predicting four waves.  We are in the first wave now…immediate mortality and morbidity of COVID 19.  However, there are still difficult days ahead.  In the next waves, health care systems will need to address lack of resources for urgent non-COVID 19 conditions, and then address the lack of attention paid to chronic conditions during the first waves. Overarching all of these changes will be the psychological trauma and mental illness brought on, or exacerbated by, the pandemic.  (click on image to enlarge)


The one thing I would change in this very helpful visual representation of the waves are the timelines.  Nurses are addressing all the waves now.  A nurse psychotherapist colleague of mine has been offering free group anxiety counselling online for several weeks to help those who are having difficulty dealing with the stress of the pandemic.  Another nurse practitioner colleague, who works in a geriatric outpatient clinic, has been following up with clients by phone, but continues to do home visits when she’s concerned. She said it was crazy to ask family members to check things like edema.  In one case, she visited a man with congestive heart failure who had gained 14 lbs of fluid weight in the previous 4 days but was afraid of going to hospital for care.

We need to find ways to continue to shine the spotlight on the health needs of our patients after the urgent phase of COVID 19. We can’t accept a lack of resources or substandard staffing. The pandemic has highlighted nurses’ true value to the system and given nurses a louder voice.  Let’s use it now and from now on to make sure that health care is safe and effective. Then we’ll truly have something to celebrate in the year dedicated to us.

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