Nurses, doctors & the whole healthcare team are going to need YOU in the face of a severe COVID-19 outbreak.
- Our hospitals already operate at a level marginally close to capacity at all times. While we anticipate influxes of patients during certain times of year (like flu season), our nation’s hospital systems have learned how to have just enough for what we need but not a luxurious excess of space, personnel or resources for scenarios that veer far outside the scope of norm. We’ve been talking about this for months on this site as it pertains to large outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases in children. We’ve been sounding the alarm about the conspicuous lack of excess ICU space, ventilators and staff. We’ve been telling you that our healthcare system is not equipped to handle mass amounts of children with measles. This is no different. Only now does it seem to be resonating with people when the scenario is no longer a hypothetical. For now, our children seem to be spared, but this worry that we’re experiencing currently can just as easily be applied to children if our vaccination rates drop. Here’s how you can help: get everyone up to date. Vaccinate your kids, yourselves Seriously. Vaccinate. It’s one less outbreak possibility to throw in this mix. If you’re unvaccinated, for the love of all that’s good, please don’t travel to places with active outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases and bring them back here like we saw last year with measles. Our systems can’t handle it right now- if you become ill or you make someone else ill with something that could’ve been prevented, you might be looking at a system that can’t help because it’s already at the breaking point.
- COVID-19 in particular appears to be much more serious for people older than 60 and people with chronic disease process. The US has struggled with a shortage of nurses for years. Because of the slow trickle of nurses into the profession when compared to the numbers of aging, the average age of RNs in this country is 50. Yes, you read that right, 50. If the lessons of China hold true for the US, somewhere around 20% of identified patients will be healthcare providers who contracted the virus on the job. Nurses spend the most amount of time, in the closest proximity to the patient which increases our likelihood of contracting it. If we’re to have the best odds, we need proper personal protective gear. Supplies must remain readily available to protect nurses and other healthcare workers. Please. I’m begging you, do not take supplies that healthcare workers need for personal use. Our well-being depends on those supplies. We are not spring chickens ourselves. We will be vulnerable as a group to the more severe complications of this virus simply because of our age.
- This wave of illness couldn’t come at a worse time. Flu season is still not over. This means that we’re still operating under stretched circumstances. Here’s how you can help us: don’t go to emergency rooms unless you are having difficulty breathing, dizziness, experiencing chest pain or having an event that you would consider an emergency requiring immediate evaluation. If you have a fever, take Tylenol or ibuprofen. That’s all We have for you at the emergency department. If you have a runny nose, or sore throat, or cough- take whatever your primary care doctor recommends and STAY HOME. Hospitals do not have a magic medication or treatment for any of those things. Assume you have it. You don’t need a test to self quarantine, wash your hands and take over the counter medications. Call your local health department for further instructions. Think of it like the flu. You don’t need to go to the ER just to be tested for flu. The same rules apply.
- Nurses work long hours already. A typical shift is 12-13 hours long. While most professions can absorb adding a few extra hours in times of crisis to get through, asking nurses to add additional hours means that they’ll work 16 or maybe 20 hour shifts or add days on top of full time hours. Nursing is physically and mentally exhausting under normal circumstances. Layering an emergency operations protocol on top of extremely long hours is extra stressful and exhaustion increases the likelihood of injuries and illnesses. Emotions are also taxing and running high under these types of circumstances, especially when death or desperation is involved. Here’s how you can help: offer the nurses in your life assistance if they are called to give extra. Babysit, run errands, cook them a dinner, take their volunteer hours at their kid’s school…..no offer for help is too small.
- In China, everyone pitched in. Transit workers became fever screeners. Secretaries became public disinfectors. People trained for and did jobs they’ve never done before to stop the transmission. There’s a couple of reasons this model seems unlikely here: the first is that our government doesn’t operate like that. We don’t really force people to do certain jobs (or much of anything) . The second is that unfortunately, as we can see by the very example of the anti-vaccine movement, at least a small portion of the US’ citizens are extremely self centered and operate on an ideal of “I’m not setting myself on fire to keep you warm” (a common phrase uttered to signal that an individual is not willing to take on any risk, no matter how small, to help another)- well, under these scenarios we will get to watch an epic backfire of that logic because we’ve all got to self sacrifice a little to save a portion of our society -the most vulnerable among us. This time, it’s not children I’m talking about, it’s the elderly & chronically ill. Most of us are able to do this, but we need everyone. Quarantine when you’re told to. Volunteer for jobs you never thought you could do. Check on your elderly neighbors. Run errands for the Ill and old so that they don’t have to go out if you’re young, healthy and the virus poses less threat to you. This is the time for selflessness and sacrifice for the greater good. This is not the time to dig in and refuse to help and indulge selfish, fear driven behaviors.
Healthcare professionals in other parts of the world have shown us that we can do this, but it’s going to take a group effort. Stand with your nurses, doctors, aids, techs, and everyone fighting on the front line and do your part.