Focus Podcast: Nurses Confront COVID-19

nurses confront COVID-19

Posted on: Monday, April 6, 2020
By: Joe Buczek, Kevin Essebaggers
9 and 10 News

Focus Podcast: Nurses Confront COVID-19

Listen to the podcast.


Transcript of the podcast:

00:00 S?: 9&10 News Focus, brought to you by Northern Michigan Digital. Providing solutions for your digital advertising needs. Let Northern Michigan Digital help you cut through the noise in the digital market space. Here is your host, Kevin Essebaggers.

00:16 Kevin Essebaggers: Welcome, and thanks for listening to 9&10 News Focus. As we enter what epidemiologists are calling the toughest couple of weeks for coronavirus cases and deaths, the people dealing with the onslaught are frontline medical workers. Nurses are the soldiers in this fight. So, what is their situation, day-to-day? Dr. Dawn Day is the Chair of graduate nursing programs at Spring Arbor University. I asked her about the situation, and other COVID-19 related issues that nurses are dealing with.

00:44 KE: And let's just start with what you are hearing from nurses. Obviously, you're in contact with many, who are in the thick of this pandemic. What are you hearing stories about concerns, for instance, over their own safety? 

01:01 Dr. Dawn Day: Yeah, that's a great question, Kevin, thank you. I am hearing from a lot of our nursing students and faculty, who are working through some potentially scary situations, where they are faced every day with putting themselves at risk of getting COVID-19. And then, obviously, taking it home to their families. I think that's one of the biggest concerns at this point. I know that there are nurses who are being called to work in COVID units, who are looking for campers or mobile homes that they can stay in, that is away from their own home, so that they can just go to work and then I kind of contain potential transmission to their family.

01:52 DD: I know of medical facilities that might have places set up for these nurses to stay, and a lot of hotels are offering free rooms for nurses to stay, so that they don't have to go home. Some people are sending their families to households, to stay with maybe grandparents, or where they can stay and they don't have to be subjected to that potential danger, as nurses and all of the medical staff are potentially bringing home to their families. I think that's one of the fears, but staying informed about everything, and making sure that they are being as safe as possible, leaving their scrubs at the hospital, leaving their shoes there, changing before they leave will be a great help for that. But again, that's a fear that they have.

02:48 KE: What are some of the best practices for medical staff to stay healthy during this? 

02:56 DD: Well, I think the most important thing that any of us can do to combat this is, of course, washing our hands, not touching our face, our eyes, our nose, our mouth, and lots of wiping down of surfaces. But one of the biggest things that we can do to fight this illness is to improve our immune system, to have a healthy immune system. And this is something that nurses and all medical staff can think about as they are working day-to-day on those front lines. So, for instance, the handwashing practices, using the foam soap for 20 seconds is critical, and constantly doing that after touching things.

03:44 DD: But making sure that they have adequate hydration. Sleep and stress are very big influencers in immune health, so trying to get adequate sleep. Sometimes, that can be hard, our nurses are working really long shifts. In addition to working their long shifts, they're getting additional training in between those shifts, on new machines, new protocols, protection wear that they haven't used before. So there's a lot of time spent at work. But getting good rest is going to help them tremendously, because there are proteins that are produced and released while we sleep that actually target infection and inflammation, so that can be a big help. Taking a 20-minute nap during the day would be a great way to help get those extra hours of sleep, and if they can't get a solid seven to nine hours at one time.

04:42 DD: Any stress-reducing practices, like deep breathing, even one minute of deep breathing throughout the day, little breaks, can really impact the immune system. An aerobic activity, I know that when you're in the hospital, it can be hard to get any exercise in, but taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Running those stairs, or walking fast up and down those stairs could be a great way to get some aerobic activity, and during the day that helps decrease stress and improves mood. Taking time to walk off the unit, even if it's just to walk down to get a cup of coffee in the cafeteria, is a really good way to just clear their head, kind of refocusing their mind. Laughing is a great way to increase immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies. So, any time that they can steal a few laughs, or once these medical staff and these nurses go home, playing games with their family, watching a funny movie, that's a great way to really actually help build the immune system.

05:51 DD: And, of course, nutrition is a major part of immune health. So even though sometimes it's hard to get the vitamins A, C, D and zinc, that we need in concentrated foods, picking up supplements to start taking to build the immune system is going to be very helpful. So, these are some of the things that nurses can do to help to fight anything that they're picking up at the hospitals. Any germs, any viruses that they're picking up there.

06:00 KE: Right. And we need these nurses to be on the job, so anything to stay healthy. You probably know this better than most, as someone who trains nurses. We may not have enough nurses. What predicament are hospitals and clinics in, right now? Because there's been a shortage of nurses for a while, and here we are, in a situation where nurses are our frontline soldiers in this war. What's the situation for hospitals and staffing? 

06:00 DD: Well, Kevin, right now, the staffing is critical. We are concerned about nursing staff that might get sick, and then be taken out of the staffing scheduling. We are definitely using nurses for every minute of the day that we can use them. So I think that there are a lot of times when nurses are working extra hours, and coming home very tired. At the university level, as you said, we're training nurses. We have nurses who are getting ready to graduate, we have nurses who are getting ready to graduate as nurse practitioners, who are trying to get their clinical hours in, so that they can graduate, and take their boards, and get out there in the field, and be more productive in that nurse practitioner role. However, it is a challenge, because they're working so hard that they're exhausted when they get home, so it's challenging for them to even think about schoolwork.

07:58 DD: So, for any of these students who are already nurses, that are working through, so we just have to be mindful to offer opportunities for them to learn from this experience, so providing opportunities for discussion in the classrooms is helping, because they're sharing their experiences for our students who are not nurses yet. So, they're in an undergraduate program and not nurses, yet. We can really use this opportunity to give real life examples of what the nursing staff are going through in the field, in this type of disaster. So, we are trying very hard to get our students ready, to hopefully replace some of these nurses who are gonna be taken out. Again, I think it's critical that nurses are thinking about the self-care, getting that rest, that nutrition that they need. I know some of our nursing students have said that school has been kind of a nice distractor for them, a positive distractor, when they don't wanna think about what's going on in the hospitals, anymore. So, just helping them to be prepared, and getting them ready to get into the workforce is really what we have to think about, at this point.

09:17 KE: What do you think this pandemic will do to nursing, as a profession, when we come up to the other side of this? How will it change? 

09:25 DD: I think it's gonna strengthen nursing. I think that our healthcare, altogether, will be strengthened. I think we're gonna learn a lot from this. You know, the main role of a nurse is to be an advocate. They're advocates for their patients, for their patients' families, for their communities, and for each other. And that role of advocate, there are many roles, if you will, within that title of advocate, so they're leaders. We are gonna learn about effective policy and procedures, and response to needs that we hadn't even thought about before. The quality and safety that the nurses provide is key, in their role as advocate, and so we're gonna learn a lot about that, and I think that's gonna strengthen us, exponentially.

10:16 DD: Nursing within that advocate role, are strong spiritual supporters. Right now, we have patients that are in hospitals, whose families can't even be with them, during this really scary time. And so, it's critical that our nurses are providing spiritual support to these people, who are alone and scared. And then also, the flexibility of nurses to be trained to other areas of care is going to strengthen the profession as a whole. And just learning that we can go into a specialty for practice, but that we have to be ready to move into another area of practice, if we're needed. We're the ones who are the liaisons between providers and patients, so our nurses are teachers, they're care planners, they're consolers, and all of these skills and all of these tasks are just gonna be strengthened through this experience.

11:14 KE: Just today, the Michigan Nurses Association, the union that represents nurses in Michigan, came out with a statement saying that it's time for hospitals to start taking the concerns of nurses seriously. In response to nurses who've come forward, saying that they don't have the protective equipment they need, they don't feel safe in their job. Have you heard from nurses about that situation, where there's a shortage of things that they really feel will protect them? 

11:45 DD: I have heard, over the last few weeks, about the fears of not having what is needed to protect them. I believe that the Michigan Governor came out today and said that there was more on the way. I think that it is important for nurses to be a voice for each other, and in turn, they end up being a voice for their patients and their communities. So, I would say that it's important for them to voice the needs that they have, or that they're seeing, and then to trust those powers that be to get those resources to them. But I also would say that it's important to that we recognize that everyone is feeling that way. So, just understanding that we're all in this together, and that nurses are a strong voice, and it is a profession that is respected and can be heard. And I think that might be one of the things that we learn from this experience altogether, about the needs and having resources that we need to have.

12:52 KE: In this situation too, in for instance, a COVID unit at a hospital, there's great restrictions on visitors, for obvious reasons. So, a nurse might be the primary human contact for people who are going through this illness. Can you talk a little bit about that role, as a nurse? It's not something you learn in a textbook, you kind of become family for these patients, don't you? 

13:00 DD: Yes, exactly. And actually, we do teach our nurses about what we call presencing. And so, that's really just a practice where we are present for our patients, and that presence that we provide is really a way to promote hope for our patients. And we need that now more than ever for our patients, because you're right, they don't have any visitors with them, they don't have family that can be there to advocate for them. So, this is a critical part of nursing, just that presencing, promoting hope for them, offering to pray with them, or accepting to be there if they want, if they're asking you to pray with them. Making sure that they're well-informed about what's going on with their health, and then being a strong advocate for them, as that liaison between provider and patient.

14:10 KE: And finally, what can people do? We're all socially distanced, and many people staying home. What can we do, right now, to support our healthcare workers? 

14:22 DD: That's a great question, Kevin. I think that we're seeing a lot of community support. We're seeing, around the world, where at 7 or 8 o'clock at night, people are just going out and cheering, to support the medical staff that are getting off. Sending maybe messages on Facebook, or video messages to them, would be great. Providing food or resources, and just letters. Different ways that we can reach out to them, obviously, we can't be right in front of them to say that. But taking the time to let them know that we're thinking about them, that we're praying for them, that we support them, is gonna be crucial through this time. Some of these nurses, as I said, are staying in housing that's not even their home, and they're there by themselves. So, giving them those extra boosts, with any type of video, or letters, or standing outside of a hospital and cheering them on, dropping off food. Gosh, even toiletries, that might be helpful for them. Different things like that, that they could use, just lets us know that we're thinking about them.

15:40 KE: Alright. Some good ideas there. Dawn Day, thank you so much for taking the time.

15:45 DD: Thank you, Kevin, was my pleasure.

15:47 KE: And thanks to Joe Buczek, for his help in the podcast. And thank you for listening to 9&10 News Focus. I hope you'll join me again, as we look at issues, in the news, affecting Northern Michigan.

15:57 S?: 9&10 News Focus, brought to you by Northern Michigan Digital. Helping you meet your digital marketing needs.

Click here to listen to the podcast.