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International Nurses Day - What Is It Like To Be A Nurse?
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Over 50,000 nurses died due to COVID-19 as a result of nursing's commitment during the pandemic across the globe. The number of critical illness cases and deaths keeps surging as nurses work in a broken system without the resources and support they need to care for critically ill patients. Experts are assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health care workers by asking them to share their testimonies. Across multiple studies, researchers found that nurses are struggling, and without support from both public and private systems, they may withdraw from nursing altogether.

Every year, nurses worldwide come together to celebrate International Nurses Day on May 12. Nurses help doctors care for patients in hospitals, care for patients dying at home, and collaborate with doctors in assisting them. Additionally to educating those interested in nursing, nurses also act as leaders within educational institutions. Florence Nightingale's birthday falls on the same day as International Nurses Day globally.

 

Nurses are not heroes, and this is a dangerous misconception.

Even risking their own lives, nurses demonstrated their dedication to their patients. As of April 2021, COVID-19 affected an estimated 20 million health care workers, with nurses constituting the biggest group of affected workers in many countries. The nurses have been honored for their courageous actions in this regard. Yet this is a dangerous branding with potentially negative results. As a result of the superhero narrative, nurses are expected to do unreal things, including providing insufficient facilities, staffing, and safety precautions. Thus, nurses are becoming accustomed to working longer hours or extra shifts without thinking about how this may affect them.

In conclusion, nurses might leave the profession as a result of burnout. Approximately 67% of the ICU nurses surveyed by the Global Association of Intensive-Care Nurses indicated that their experiences during the pandemic prompted them to consider leaving nursing. Similarly, the survey found that more than 60% of nurses under 30 are considering leaving their organizations within the next two years.

In the research, nurses place the welfare of their patients and society above their own. "There was a visible discomfort being there because nobody had any idea what was going on." One young nurse described their experience caring for COVID-19 patients: "There was no safety information at all. There was no real protocol yet. If a patient was admitted and you had to take care of one, you kind of felt like you were being thrown to the wolves as an experiment." Therefore, International Nurses Day is an occasion to let go of the superhero misconception.

Resources or support are insufficient for nurses

Despite working in hazardous conditions, nurses have cared for their patients. To address staffing shortages, some hospital organizations have offered higher compensation to temporary nurses or guest nurses, but those offers have not been extended to their permanent employees. However, many organizations require overtime and do not provide adequate resources, such as personal protective equipment and support staff, to ensure a safe environment for patients. Nurses have been left feeling misunderstood, undervalued, and unsafe due to this.

Nurses from the study commented: "The lack of resources, the lack of staff, the lack of responding to the concerns, and many more. Those factors can be exhausting, especially when we're supposed to provide patient care and deliver quality care. Everything from work drama to those kinds of things doesn't help. In fact, the environment becomes even more toxic and unbearable and starts to affect your mental, physical, and even spiritual health."

Healthcare organizations have lost the faith of nurses

Policy and procedure changes are causing nurses a lot of stress. Although many hospitals informed nurses about these changes, they were not transparent about their reasons and expected them to accept them. The worst is that some healthcare organizations have scolded nurses for being concerned for their own welfare. A depressed nurse expressed frustration with management's lack of communication: "They just weren't telling us much of anything. Their unit is staffed by four managers and eight clinical coordinators. Obviously, there were enough people to be sending emails and providing updates, but there was so much uncertainty as well that they just kind of went radio silent, which caused frustration and made the whole situation more difficult. Several of the things they told us were about overreacting. Not everyone needs to wear N95s every time.”

Despite nurses' commitment to safety, they have been forced to sacrifice mental health for their organizations and patients. An analysis of about 500 nurses in the U.S. found that 80.4% reported anxiety, while 20% fit the clinical definition of major depression. Similarly, another nurse in the study on the occasion of International Nurses Day reported: "Our policies changed so rapidly that anesthesia, the medical staff, and nursing did not always have the same understanding, but were always updated in a very short amount of time." Getting updates was extremely frustrating. The work was very stressful.".

Nurses face emotionally challenging scenarios

The nursing staff has been subjected to considerable moral injury, which happens when they witness, perpetuate, or fail to prevent something contrary to their values and beliefs. Despite witnessing many deaths every day, nurses are also placed in emotionally challenging situations due to shortages of facilities, such as oxygen supplies, ECMO machines that support the heart and lungs, and staff and beds in hospitals. In addition, nurses' morale was adversely impacted by the disregard of even more everyday care practices, such as hygienic care.

The following is an account by one of the nurses in the study who felt morally distressed while making decisions concerning life support: "They were told very quickly, if that person needs a ventilator, they won't get one. As a result, nurses made decisions regarding the clinical status without checking with the patient, which seems very unfair and unprofessional."

Nurses are frustrated with the public's lack of concern for the pandemic

Vaccines and masks are effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19. As of Mar 31, 2022, 80% of the population had received at least one dose of the vaccine, yet many individuals refuse to wear masks. Regarding the International Nurses Day, CDC data shows that 90% of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, as well as 93% of deaths related to COVID-19, occurred in individuals who were not fully vaccinated between May and December 2021. The proportion of cases and deaths caused by COVID-19 was lower among fully vaccinated individuals.

Vaccination status is not a factor in nursing care. Unfortunately, the public may not realize that their decision to decline vaccination or mask might have serious consequences for not only nurses but also their friends and family as well. The hospital systems may have limited staff or resources to help with other medical emergencies when they are overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. As nurses, they endure this frustrating situation as they cannot provide care to every patient in need and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Nurses are undervalued

In today's world of medicine, nurses are among the unsung icons. The terms by which they describe their profession vary according to their level of training, specialization, and acronyms. Each one of them has one thing in common: To help patients and their families live a better life. Experts suggest that nurses be trained so they can take on some of the non-critical, clinical work that would otherwise be allocated to doctors. A nurse wants to work at a government hospital because entry-level pay is higher, with an entry-level salary of around $100,000 versus about $70,000. Entry-level salaries also depend on the size of the hospital.

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Conclusion

Nurse shortages in hospitals can often be stressful, leading to demotivation. Hospitals and communities continue to be overwhelmed by the pandemic throughout the globe, which has devastating effects on nurses. Already, nurses with exhaustion and demoralization are leaving their jobs or retiring at alarming rates. The long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nursing profession cannot be predicted at this time. Although, in times of enormous change, the public and health care organizations can look up to occasions like International Nurses Day to help nurses by enhancing access to mental health services and providing adequate resources, safe working conditions, and organizational transparency. Every individual can protect themselves from COVID-19 by masking and vaccinating themselves.

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