Over the past year, the majority of healthcare professionals, and nurses in particular, have been serving on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses are the professionals who have been the most affected by the coronavirus since they are often the most likely to have direct contact with infected patients. Around the world, hospitals and other healthcare facilities have had to take new and unprecedented precautions and strategies to help reduce the spread of the virus. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been in higher demand than ever before to keep nurses and other healthcare professionals safe in healthcare settings, and the rules for patients have become stricter to reduce contact and keep infection numbers as low as possible.
However, nurses are people outside of work too, and they are doing as much as possible in their personal lives to ensure that they are at low risk of catching the virus. As front-line workers, they must take the safety of themselves and others during these times very seriously. Here are some of the main things that we can all learn from nurses and healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Any good nurse is an advocate for the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccination is now becoming more and more widely available and is likely to be giving to people with older people and those at high-risk as a priority. Since nurses spend every day working with patients in an environment that leaves them highly susceptible to catching the coronavirus, many nurses have already been vaccinated and are encouraging others to do the same. While there is always naturally some level of worry regarding a new vaccination, medication, or treatment, the risks so far have been minimal, and we have not heard of any serious side effects either from the clinical trials or from patients who have been vaccinated so far. If you are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, nurses would highly recommend it.
In hospitals around the world, nurses and other healthcare professionals are wearing more PPE than ever before. Nurses who work directly with COVID-19 patients are taking no chances when it comes to their protection, with surgical masks, face shields, full-body coverings and surgical gloves needed for every shift. PPE must also be changed regularly for it to be most effective since it can quickly and easily become contaminated with the virus. Even if you do not work in a healthcare setting, it is recommended that you wear some form of PPE right now. In most US states, it is now mandatory to wear a mask in public places, and for very good reason. Research has shown that mask-wearing can significantly reduce the spread of the virus by catching droplets from the mouth and nose, meaning that if everybody wears one, we are all better protected.
Good Home Hygiene
The risk of passing COVID-19 onto others is much higher for nurses compared to the rest of the public. A nurse who catches the virus is more likely to pass it on to others in the workplace, which is why nurses are taking their hygiene at home very seriously. Whether they are returning from work or coming home after a trip to the store to get essential groceries, nurses have a safety system in place to ensure that the risk of bringing the virus into their homes on their clothes or hands is minimal. To reduce the spread of COVID-19 into your home, it’s important to treat everything that has been outside like it could potentially be infected. Whether that means taking off your clothes as soon as you get in through the front door and hopping straight into the shower, or wiping your groceries with a disinfecting wipe before putting them away, anything you do to reduce potential contamination from outdoors will help.
Even when there’s a worldwide pandemic going on, we all need to continue getting everyday supplies like groceries and cleaning products to improve our personal and home hygiene in the fight against the virus. But for nurses, simply going to the store can be very risky when they need to try and reduce contact with the general public as much as possible when outside of the workplace. Getting the vaccination certainly improves immunity to the virus and makes this task easier, but it’s still important for nurses and other healthcare professionals to proceed with caution when picking up supplies for their homes.
Nurses are taking all necessary precautions when getting the supplies that they need. This could include getting groceries delivered online, or shopping during quieter times of the day when there are less likely to be lots of people in the store. While getting supplies, nurses will cover their faces, use hand sanitizer regularly, and sanitize their shopping cart. A good habit that we can all copy from healthcare professionals is to carry sanitizing wipes in your bag or your car so that you can easily clean anything that has potentially been used by other people before you use it, like gas pumps or card keypads.
Keep Your Hands Clean
Nobody understands the importance of handwashing as much as nurses do. Keeping your hands clean is something that every nurse learns continuously during accredited online accelerated nursing programs from Marymount University. Nurses have to wash their hands multiple times each day in between treating patients, so it becomes second nature to them when outdoors or indoors during this pandemic. Many nurses recommend carrying a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you at all times, making it easy to thoroughly clean your hands if you do not have access to soap and warm, running water. Although hand sanitizer is not as effective as good handwashing and should never be used as a complete alternative to soap and running water, it can certainly reduce your chance of inadvertently infecting yourself with the virus by touching a contaminated surface before touching your face.
Avoid Social Situations
Nurses will often work in environments where they are working with and meeting different people daily. However, they know that it’s still important to keep their social interactions outside of the workplace down to a minimum right now. Across the country, we’ve seen parties and large gatherings that have only made the spread of the coronavirus worse, and it’s down to everybody to ensure that they are staying at home and coming up with alternative ways to connect with friends or family, such as video calls.
Strengthening the Immune System with the Right Diet
Right now, nurses need to have a stronger immune system than ever before. Since these professionals often spend their days around patients who are very sick, they must be able to look after their immune systems to give themselves the best chance of fighting off the coronavirus and any other diseases that they are more susceptible to catching. One of the best ways to boost your immune system naturally is to eat the right foods. A diet that is rich in healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables will provide your body with antioxidants and give your immune system the fuel that it needs to fight disease and help you recover. Right now, nurses are hyper-aware of the importance of keeping their immune system strong, since not only could catching COVID-19 be very dangerous for their health, but it could also mean that they need to take time off work, which will impact their colleagues and their patients.
Along with eating the right foods, nurses know that staying hydrated is also key to a healthy and strong immune system. Drinking plenty of water is beneficial for everybody in many different ways. Being adequately hydrated allows healthcare professionals to stay energized while looking after patients and helps their body release toxins, therefore strengthening their immune system and boosting their overall health.
Nurses are under more stress than ever before, with a worldwide pandemic coupled with a national nursing shortage to deal with. However, they know that stress is no good for your immune system, and that letting the stress of the situation get to them is only going to put them at higher risk of catching the virus. Nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic are taking stress management very seriously. Many are turning to online therapy to get professional support. Mindfulness techniques can be very useful for nurses to keep themselves grounded at work, while getting enough sleep is vital for nurses who need to keep their energy levels up and their stress levels down.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stressful situation for everybody. If you have been particularly affected, there are several options to consider for support including talking therapies, mindfulness meditation apps, or speaking to your doctor who can help.
Since the symptoms of COVID-19 can often be similar to those of the flu or even the common cold, it’s important to be vigilant if you experience any of these symptoms and get tested as soon as possible. If you are unable to get tested, nurses and other healthcare professionals recommend self-isolating at home for a period of 7-14 days. Keep in mind that it is possible to have COVID-19 and be asymptomatic, so it’s important to self-isolate for the entire recommended period even if your symptoms subside, since you could still be infectious if you do have the virus. Home testing kits are expected to be available very soon.
Why Are COVID-19 Guidelines Still in Place?
Although vaccination has finally been rolled out for COVID-19, the process of vaccinating everybody is going to take time. In the meantime, it’s important to ensure that everybody is continuously following the COVID-19 guidelines and doing their bit to keep themselves and others safe from the coronavirus. Nurses around the world are continuing to follow guidelines to protect the communities that they serve, and appreciate that members of the public are following suit. Although the vaccine has provided a glimmer of hope for the future, some of the main COVID-19 guidelines that are likely going to be in place for many months into the future include:
Self-Isolation for Symptoms:
If you experience any symptoms of COVID-19 or have a positive test, you are still going to be expected to self-isolate for 7-14 days. Even if more and more people are being vaccinated, there is no guarantee that everybody will have received the vaccine, so it’s important to stay at home until the self-isolation period is up to eliminate the risk of passing the virus on to anybody else.
In public places, people are going to be practicing social distancing for some time. This involves being mindful of your environment and staying at least six feet apart from others wherever possible.
In the majority of states, wearing a face-covering has become mandatory to protect citizens from the virus by reducing the number of contaminated droplets in the air. These rules are expected to remain in place for some time.
After the pandemic, people are likely going to be washing their hands much more often than we did in the past. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how easy it is to infect yourself with a virus by touching a contaminated surface before touching your face. Just like nurses, we should all keep up hand hygiene practices for long after the pandemic is over.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a lot of stress and strain on nurses, who have been heroes at the front line of healthcare, putting their health at risk to treat others. Following COVID-19 guidelines and taking inspiration from the habits of healthcare professionals who are doing all they can to reduce the spread of the virus is still as important as ever before. Whether it’s staying at home more often, washing your hands several times a day, or wearing a face-covering in public, we can all do our bit to protect each other and support the healthcare professionals who are working tirelessly.