A global pandemic is something I never thought I would have to live through. I remember hearing about it on the news, expecting it to be nothing more than a glorified flu. However, it quickly became apparent that it was much more serious than that. It has turned everyone’s lives upside down since the beginning of a lockdown in March of 2020.
I work at an assisted living facility and am considered and essential worker, therefore I have been working throughout this pandemic. This was especially stressful at the beginning of the lockdown last year considering there was no vaccine available and I was working with a very at-risk population. I have had to consider the safety of not only me and my family, but the elderly residents I work with. It has been frustrating to see that other people continued to live their lives as usual, meanwhile I had stopped leaving the house unless it was to go to work after being sent home from school last year. Working as a nursing assistant, I think the onset of this pandemic called basic nursing concepts of accountability, caring, and resilience into play.
I definitely have had to be accountable for my actions in regard to being safe and sensible during this pandemic in order to keep others safe. Responsibility from myself and coworkers has kept our residents healthy and safe throughout this unprecedented time. We all care so deeply for the residents that feel like family. Even though the likelihood of COVID-19 being deadly to the employees of the facility is less than the risk is poses to the residents, we all made the choice to care about others rather than ourselves and remained home when possible.
I also think self-care has been increasingly important since the onset of this pandemic. It has felt very isolating to anyone who respects CDC guidelines and has kept at home. It was also very isolating for the residents at work, who were unable to see their family or even spend time with each other as they usually would. I watched them start to show signs of depression as a result of this and did my best to safely interact with everyone whenever possible. Promoting self-care for myself and others has helped keep our sanity, for lack of a better term. It has taken an incredible amount of resilience from us all to not lose hope and remind ourselves that the safety of ourselves and others is more important than trying to return to “normal” too soon.
The pandemic has impacted current nursing students in multiple ways. Not only has it been a struggle to transition to distance learning, it has affected what we have been able to complete in-person. Last semester, our clinical experience was shortened to 5 total days, which felt like a pretty big set-back. Although we received good experience regarding the nursing assistant’s role, here was not much time to learn about the nurse’s role. Thankfully, this semester my group has gotten a full medical-surgical and telemetry clinical experience, as well as the opportunity to complete hours in the student health center. This has been nice to see how the nurse works, especially as an educator during this time, in different settings.
Now more than ever, it has become increasingly important for nurses to step up and educate the public about health maintenance and prevention of the spread of COVID-19. Noticeably, opinions on the validity of masks and the pandemic itself has varied among regions of the United States. I have seen nurses and other healthcare workers take to social media to spread awareness about the harsh realities of working through this pandemic and its toll on those who contract the virus. It has been interesting to see nurses use different platforms to inform the public during this unprecedented time in an attempt to correct misinformation being spread by those less educated on the topic. Through both clinical experiences and my life outside of school, I have realized that nurses play a strong role in education for public safety practices.
I know personally, as I am sure a lot of people in the community can relate to, that I have never focused so much on things such as hand hygiene and reduction of disease transmission than I have since this pandemic started. Even around campus, there are now signs posted reminding us all to wash our hands and of the great impact on wellness this small act has. Of course, during flu season and in general it is important to maintain hygiene and not spread any kind of illness to the public, but I think these practices have been exponentially increased among a large percentage of the population since the beginning of this pandemic.
I certainly foresee future leadership opportunities regarding community health for nurses in the education role, specifically regarding disease prevention and slowing of the spread as it pertains to COVID-19. As mentioned, I have seen the extensive amounts of patient centered and public teaching nurses provide both inside and outside of work. The nurse’s work does not end when they clock out, as they continuously have a duty to protect and educate the public whenever possible to promote wellness for everyone.
I would not be surprised if COVID-19 persists and becomes similar to how we handle the onset of flu season. By this, I mean we may have to get booster shots yearly just as we get shots to protect us from the flu yearly. Of course, I am not educated enough regarding the mechanism of action of vaccines or COVID-19 itself to make any sort of solid prediction such as this one. The lasting effects this virus has on respiratory function will certainly be a pressing result of changes brought on by the pandemic. There will likely be an increase of patients experiencing respiratory function deficit within the community, as both the older population and even the younger population that has survived being infected experience this.
In conclusion, this pandemic has brought on extreme changes in the lives of everyone across the globe. While some countries have handled it better than others and been able to return to “normal” daily functioning, there are lasting effects that linger from the onset of the spreading of COVID-19. Nurses and nursing students have adapted to a changing role and routine of caring for patients both inside and outside of the inpatient setting to promote wellness for all.