In January 2020, the U.S. reported its first COVID-19 case, and two months later, WHO declared a pandemic. Since that first case, the contagion in the U.S. has reached an alarming 27.4+ million confirmed cases, the likes of which we’ve never seen on our shores before.
A Crisis This Scale Caught America Off Guard
America is a wealthy nation with advanced technology and scientific innovation. Moreover, the citizens have access to free-flowing information. All these considered, the U.S. was primed to handle a global pandemic. That, however, was not the case.
Compared to other democratic nations like South Korea and Taiwan, the U.S. was unable to stop the spread of the virus. Although the U.S. and South Korea announced their first confirmed cases within a day of each other, South Korea was already racing to implement widespread testing measures while Americans found themselves polarized by the situation. The U.S. never had to face a pandemic of this magnitude, unlike Taiwan whose devastating SARS outbreak in 2003 led them to create a highly developed National Health Command Center (NHCC). The NHCC gives power to authorities and the health sector to track citizens and take control over the production of vital medical supplies during an outbreak.
While the U.S. government did order stringent measures such as travel bans and school closures, the pandemic response wasn’t as fast and organized as it needed to be, and healthcare bore the brunt of it. The COVID-19 outbreak overwhelmed the system to the point where medical practitioners had to ask the public to “please stay home” themselves. Cases continued to rise and the lack of healthcare professionals became that much clearer.
Nurses Stepping Up
From the times of Florence Nightingale, nurses have heeded the call to serve as frontline care providers during crises—H1N1 Swine Flu, Ebola, SARS, MERS, and now, COVID-19. Undoubtedly, the latter is the most challenging health crisis in recent history.
Not only have nurses provided direct care to hospitalized patients, they’ve also led full-scale public health operations. For the past year, they’ve been working around the clock to protect patients as well as the general public, leading response teams, disaster preparedness initiatives, hospital and field operations, and even human resource management. Evidently, they’ve become more than just caregivers. They’ve become some of the most notable leaders in fighting COVID-19. As such, the demand for nurses skyrocketed.
However, a report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing revealed that nursing schools turned away more than 80,000 applicants in 2019 even though they were all qualified candidates. This is due to a number of limitations in educational institutions, and those became exacerbated during the pandemic. Medical facilities instead expended more resources on caring for patients and let fewer and fewer students in. In fact, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine projects a shortage of over 510,000 registered nurses by 2030 because of this.
Fortunately, the pandemic also gave rise to a new learning channel: online. And just when more students are interested in joining the healthcare workforce too. Taking online RN to BSN programs allows students to learn crucial skills that enable them to become effective members of the healthcare community, eventually leading them to obtain licenses. As medical facilities refuse to expose students to the threat of the virus, online learning is a viable path. And while we may see the end of the pandemic—thanks to the united push against the virus—its effects on healthcare and medical education will linger long after.
What’s Next in Healthcare?
The last several months have been the toughest on nurses and the entire healthcare community yet. Take it from Nurse Dani who talked about the physical and emotional isolation she’s felt as a frontliner in a previous column. As we bounce back from COVID-19, nurses will continue to be important pillars of health promotion, illness prevention education, and fact-based information.
For us at Midland Care, nurses remain crucial members of our community care system, especially now that the majority of the aging population is now receiving care and support at home through our Thrive at Home, PACE, and Home Health Programs, among others. Seniors are some of the most heavily affected by the health, social, and physical threats of the pandemic—and our nurses take on a personal and very hands-on role in fortifying care in those areas, particularly in the current situation where home care is very much needed. It’s important for us that we help the elderly live with purpose and as integral parts of our community. You can reach out to us for healthcare services in Northeast Kansas, and we’ll craft a care plan together that includes holistic health in social, physical, and spiritual aspects.
Moving forward, the healthcare community will need more professionals. Perhaps as we ease out of the pandemic, more student nurses can transition to becoming full-fledged registered nurses, joining the ranks of this noble profession.
Content intended only for the use of midlandcareconnection.org
Prepared by Alicia Benson
IMAGE: https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1592671748854-2e0ed15b0441 Credit: Unsplash