7 Precautions for Health Care Workers to Combat COVID-19

7 Precautions for Health Care Workers to Combat COVID-19

Doctors, nurses, and health care providers are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, providing care and saving lives. Given how little is known about the virus, and how contagious it appears to be, many health care workers are understandably nervous about contracting the disease or bringing it home to their loved ones. Whether you’re a nurse in the ICU or a home health care worker in a senior facility, here are seven precautions you can take to combat COVID-19 and protect yourself, your family, and your friends.

1. Make sure your facility is following CDC guidelines.

At this point in the coronavirus epidemic, your facility should already be following the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This includes measures such as identifying airborne infection isolation rooms (AIIR) or negative pressure rooms for quarantine and screening. Another important measure is outlining staffing protocols to facilitate the care of patients with COVID-19. Since developments are changing so rapidly and new research is proceeding apace, you should double-check that your facility is staying up to date with the most current findings. You can find more guidance from the CDC’s centralized portal.

2. Observe proper PPE protocols.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages are a sad reality in some areas, even as companies and individuals race to make more masks, face shields, gowns, and gloves. As much as possible, you should wear PPE and follow safety protocols, including proper hand sanitation. Sanitize your hands, step into your isolation gown, put on your N95 respirator, add your goggles or face shield, wash or sanitize your hands again and put on your gloves. Then, you may finally enter the patient room. Before exiting the room, remove the gloves and gown and dispose of them. After exiting the room, perform hand hygiene before and after removing the face shield and mask.

3. Watch yourself for symptoms.

Health care workers are unfortunately at a greater risk of catching coronavirus, especially if they are working directly with patients who are ill with COVID-19. Watch yourself carefully for symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath within 2-14 days of exposure. Symptoms present very differently from individual to individual, and you can also be asymptomatic while carrying the virus without knowing it. You can measure your temperature to make sure that you’re not sick if you think you might have been exposed. If you start exhibiting symptoms, it’s imperative to get tested immediately. You don’t want to infect otherwise healthy patients, so the safest action you can take is to self-isolate and wait for your test results.

4. Educate your patients.

Yes, health care providers can spread the coronavirus — and so can your patients. In fact, the vast majority of people have picked up the virus from other civilians in perfectly ordinary situations, like going to the grocery store. Talk to patients about the importance of self-isolation and following CDC guidelines, such as not touching their faces, washing their hands properly for at least 20 seconds, and limiting trips outside the house. Make sure that your patients are only coming in for an appointment if absolutely necessary. If there’s any chance they have coronavirus, even if their symptoms are mild, it could be best for them to ride it out at home rather than to come in and potentially infect other people. As always, make sure all patients consult with their health care providers about any such decisions.

5. Leave the germs at work.

Bring a set of clean clothes and shoes with you to work in a sealed plastic bag. At the end of your shift, perform hand hygiene and change into the new clothes and shoes. Place your scrubs in another sealed bag to bring home with you and don’t put the dirty clothes in the same bag as the clean clothes if you plan to reuse them. If you can, leave your slip-resistant shoes in your locker so you don’t have to take them home with you. Once you leave the hospital, wipe down your cell phone, pager, and other personal devices with disinfectant. You might also want to disinfectant the door handles, steering wheel, and other high touch areas in your car.

6. Clean your scrubs and shoes.

At home, leave your shoes outside the door. Take off your clothes and put them in the washer immediately alongside your nursing scrubs. Wash the clothes on the hottest setting possible with plenty of detergent. If you want, you can also add bleach to the wash cycle. Dry the clothes for at least 30 minutes on the hottest setting available. If your shoes are made of a hard material, wipe them down with disinfectant after each shift. If they’re not, wash them periodically in a separate load.

7. Protect your family.

Even if you’re not currently exhibiting symptoms, if you work in a role that exposes you to patients that likely have coronavirus, you might want to self-isolate from your family. You can isolate yourself in your own living space, but you’ll need to sleep in a different bedroom, use a different bathroom, and eat your meals separately from the rest of your family. If your current living arrangement doesn’t allow you to do that, some hotels and short-term rentals are offering accommodations to health care workers for drastically reduced rates so they can keep their families safe.

Following these guidelines and erring on the side of caution will cut down on your odds of spreading COVID-19 or catching it yourself. Stay abreast of the latest guidelines and do everything you can to leave the germs at the hospital.

How to Talk to Your Patients About Vaccinations

How to Talk to Your Patients About Vaccinations

It’s now officially flu season, which means more patients than ever need to get vaccines in addition to the usual shots. But given the rise in anti-vaccination sentiment over the past few years, some patients are suspicious of anyone in a white lab coat who tells them that they, or their children, need vaccinations. Even patients who aren’t “antivaxxers” will likely have more questions about vaccinations than they would have a few years ago, simply due to the uptick in news stories. Here are 10 things to keep in mind as you prepare to talk to your patients about vaccinations:


1. Start a conversation.

In past decades, you might have been able to run through the required vaccination spiel and administered an IM injection without getting a single question from patients. But now we live in a time where misinformation about vaccinations is rife and infectious disease rates are rising due to reduced vaccinations–and people have a lot to say about it. When you’re talking to patients about vaccinations, create a two-way conversation rather than a one-way dump of information that shuts out the patient.

2. Acknowledge their concern and listen to them.

Especially when it comes to their kids, many parents are very concerned about vaccinations and the potentially adverse effects they can have. In these situations, dismissing their concerns outright will often only confirm their perceptions that the medical establishment doesn’t care about their worries, further entrenching this position. Instead, empathize with them, listen to their concerns and communicate that you also want to keep their kids as healthy as possible.

3. Use plain language and specific examples.

Medical jargon means nothing to most patients, and definitely not to their kids. When talking to patients, use language that’s accurate yet easy to understand. It can also help to use specific individual examples to really illustrate the power of vaccines–for example, maybe you know a patient who refused to get the flu vaccine and ended up contracting the flu that season. While a single example isn’t statistical proof, it is easier for patients to grasp.

4. Communicate your credentials.

“Of course, patients should know I’m competent! I’ve been to medical school and have been practicing for years!” you may think. However, there’s a perception among certain groups of patients that so-called outside experts are more trustworthy than doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. If a patient seems reluctant to believe you, you may need to gently work your credentials into the conversation to show that you really do know what you’re talking about.


5. Emphasize the safety of vaccines.

Most patients’ concerns center on vaccine safety and whether or not it will have unintentional side effects. To help assuage their fear, focus on the safety of vaccines and how rare side effects are. Having some numbers about their safety, such as the tiny percentage of people who develop side effects, can also be helpful. (More on using statistics wisely below.)

6. Explain the consequences of diseases.

Over the past few decades, vaccination rates have risen and infectious disease rates have dropped, so many people have no firsthand experience of the illnesses they’re being vaccinated against. In fact, they might not even know what the symptoms are. While it’s great that we’re no longer afraid of so many killer epidemics, this does mean that patients have no idea just how serious these diseases can be. While you should never fear monger, you might need to factually explain exactly what the various vaccinations protect against.

7. Have some numbers handy.

While inundating patients with numbers will likely cause them to glaze over and check out, having one or two well-placed statistics ready can go a long way. For instance, if a patient says that their child doesn’t need the MMR vaccine because “no one gets the measles anymore,” you can point out that there have actually been 1,250 confirmed cases of the measles in the U.S. since the beginning of 2019, many of them linked to a lack of vaccines.

8. Know what the internet is telling them.

In order to successfully debate an opponent, you’d brainstorm all the advantages they’d point out and then find ways to refute them, right? In the same vein, you can’t successfully argue against the anti-vaccination movement without knowing their claims and evidence (or the lack thereof), and most patients are getting this information from the internet. If you’re seeing a lot of patients who are resistant to getting vaccines, it might be worthwhile to explore what the other side is telling them so you can argue against it more persuasively.


9. Make sure your staff presents a united front.

If patients are already predisposed to distrust the medical establishment, this suspicion will only be heightened if they hear one thing from a nurse and another thing from a doctor regarding vaccinations. Meet with your staff regularly to keep them up to date on the latest findings and to establish your talking points. Giving patients two different pieces of information will only confuse them further, so everyone needs to be on the same page.

10. Be prepared for counterarguments.

Despite all these preparations, some patients are still going to have questions and counterarguments for you. Instead of brushing them off or shutting them down, engage with them and show that you care. Try to see the concern and worry fueling these arguments instead of only dwelling on the surface claims. For some people, getting vaccines for their children is a very emotional decision–instead of just a rational one–and you’ll need to proceed accordingly.

As a medical professional, you’re almost always a patient’s most trustworthy source on vaccines, even if they don’t believe it quite yet. Keep these 10 tips in mind as you prepare to talk to your patients about vaccines.

6 Reasons Why 2020 Is the Year of the Nurse

6 Reasons Why 2020 Is the Year of the Nurse

Early in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that 2020 would be the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. WHO is planning lots of programming and reporting around the year to celebrate nurses and support the profession. Here are six reasons why 2020 is the perfect time for the Year of the Nurse.

1. It’s the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale.

Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820, making 2020 the 200th year anniversary of her birth. The “Lady with the Lamp” became the founder of modern nursing and the first woman to receive the Order of Merit. During the Crimean War, Nightingale was put in charge of nursing British and allied soldiers in Turkey. Her time in the wards, especially her night rounds, earned her the nickname “Lady with the Lamp” and helped her begin to formalize nursing education. She went on to found the first scientifically based nursing school—the Nightingale School of Nursing at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London—in 1860. She also helped institute training for midwives and nurses working in workhouse infirmaries. Nightingale continues to inspire nurses all over the world with her legacy of dedication and innovation. While International Nurses Day commemorates her birthday every year on May 12, the 2020 celebrations will take place year-round and further champion nurses’ work.

2. It’s the release of the first State of the World’s Nursing Report.

In conjunction with the Year of the Nurse, WHO will be releasing its first-ever wh prior to the 73rd World Health Assembly in May 2020. According to WHO, “The report will describe the nursing workforce in WHO Member States, providing an assessment of ‘fitness for purpose’ relative to GPW13 targets.” GPW13 refers to the Thirteenth General Programme of Work 2019−2023, which lays out WHO’s leadership priorities in five-year blocks. Some of WHO’s 2023 goals include reducing the global maternal mortality ratio by 30% and reducing malaria case incidences by 50%. WHO will also be a partner on the State of the World’s Midwifery 2020 Report, which will be launched around the same time as the State of the World’s Nursing Report.

3. It’s the culmination of the Nursing Now campaign.

The three-year Nursing Now global campaign launched in 2018 and will wrap up at the end of 2020. Nursing Now is a collaboration between the World Health Organization and the International Council of Nurses and is championed by Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. Nursing Now focuses on five core areas: ensuring that nurses and midwives have a more prominent voice in health policy-making; encouraging greater investment in the nursing workforce; recruiting more nurses into leadership positions; conducting research that helps determine where nurses can have the greatest impact; and sharing of best nursing practices. Nurses can support Nursing Now by signing its support pledge, sharing about the campaign on social media, hosting events, sharing their experiences with other nurses, and organizing to advocate for the nursing profession. You can also start or join a Nursing Now group in your local or regional area. There are currently groups in more than 100 countries worldwide.

4. Nurses make up a majority of the worldwide healthcare force.

While doctors get much of the attention, especially in Western nations, nurses and midwives make up more than 50% of the health workforce in many countries. Nurses armed with clinical supplies are usually the front line of care and, in some cases, may be the only provider in the area, especially in developing countries. They make a difference not just in individual patients’ lives but also in the community as a whole. Due to their sheer numbers and the locations where they often work, nurses are vital players in improving public health outcomes around the world.

5. Nurses are a huge part of the health care worker shortfall.

Due to the major role they play in the worldwide healthcare workforce, nurses and midwives also make up a significant part of the nursing shortage–more than 50% of the shortfall in the global health workforce to 2030. Looking at just the U.S., the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 12% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. BLS also predicts that the U.S. will need an additional 200,000+ nurses per year from now until 2026, adding up to more than one million additional nurses. And that’s just one country that already had a health care infrastructure that’s significantly more developed than some others.

6. Supporting nurses boosts economic growth and gender equality.

As part of Nursing Now and its other efforts to support nurses, WHO often speaks of the “Triple Impact” that comes from giving nurses what they need: better health, stronger economies, and greater gender equality. While the first outcome is more obvious, the second ones are equally important. While men can and do become nurses, worldwide the vast majority of nurses are women. Becoming a nurse opens up opportunities for women, giving them the chance to receive formal education, enroll in training programs, secure a license, and finally get a job and its accompanying income. This improves overall economic growth and also increases gender equality in the workforce.

Nurses should already be proud of themselves when they don their scrubs for a shift, but in 2020, they’ll do so with the extra confidence of knowing that it’s the Year of the Nurse and that organizations all over the world are supporting their profession.

Where Are You Most Needed? 6 Nursing Shortage Facts for Students

Where Are You Most Needed? 6 Nursing Shortage Facts for Students

It’s no secret that the United States is in desperate need of nurses. Due to patients living longer, educational bottlenecks, and a staggeringly high turnover rate in the health care industry, the nursing shortage is a growing problem that’s putting serious pressure on nursing staff around the country.

As a nursing student, you’re probably well aware of these issues. In fact, it may even be one of the primary reasons you’re pursuing a nursing career in the first place. After all, what could be more fulfilling than providing care and support for patients who desperately need it?

There are several areas—both physical and occupational—where the need for nurses is at an all-time high. If your true calling is to make a difference in the lives of your patients, here are six nursing shortage facts that may influence where you end up after graduation.

1. California has the greatest nursing shortage of any state.

Although California employs the highest number of registered nurses in the country, it needs more—a lot more, in fact. According to a 2017 report by the Health Resources and Services Administration, California is predicted to have the highest demand for nurses in the country, with a shortage of nearly 45,000 registered nurses.

With its strong economy and thriving metropolitan areas, California has long been a desirable place to live. If you’re thinking about working as a nurse in the Golden State, check out the California Nursing Students’ Association (CNSA) for mentorship and networking opportunities.

2. Rural towns need the most help.

If you prefer small town life to the hustle and bustle of urban living, health care institutions in rural America will gladly accept your help. Attracting and retaining qualified nurses has long been a problem for hospitals in rural locations, mainly due to the lower pay rate and less lively social scene.

While the pay may be lower, the cost of living is often lower as well. Plus, you’ll never deal with the insane traffic that you’d find in a metropolitan area. For nursing students who truly want to make a difference, the rural health care workforce is in desperate need of help.

3. Demand for certified nurse midwives is growing.

What could be more meaningful than caring for the newest generation? Certified nurse midwives are experiencing a huge surge in demand lately as more couples wish for positive and natural birth experiences.

According to statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of nurse midwives is expected to grow 21% by 2026, with 1,700 jobs created in this occupation. As an added bonus, you’re looking at a median wage of $106,910 for this field, per estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

4. Certified nurse anesthetists, dialysis nurses, and other nurse specialties are growing, too.

In addition to certified nurse midwives, there is a growing number of in-demand nurse specialties that nursing students should consider. Making one of these specialties your primary focus can help you facilitate change in the health care industry and pave the way towards a fulfilling career:

  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNAs): CRNAs work with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other health care professionals to safely deliver anesthesia to patients. CRNAs are one of the higher-paying fields in the industry, with a mean annual wage of $174,790.
  • Certified Dialysis Nurse (CDN): As our population continues to age, the need for dialysis services is growing. A CDN assists their patients with kidney function issues by supporting the administration of dialysis with a physician. Growth for this job is steady and is expected to increase 26% over the next decade.
  • Pediatric Endocrinology (PED ENDO) Nurse: As a PED ENDO nurse, you’ll provide care and support for children with endocrine disorders such as diabetes or hypoglycemia. Unfortunately, the need for this occupation may be growing due to our increasing risk of diabetes and obesity.

5. The need for nurse educators has never been greater.

One of the reasons why the country is facing such an immense shortage of registered nurses is partly due to educational bottlenecks. With an aging faculty, budget issues, and low pay, the demand for nurse educators is at an all-time high.

According to a 2017 study published in Nursing Outlook, one-third of current nurse educators are expected to retire by 2025. Most younger faculty members who may potentially replace them don’t have nearly the same level of experience as their older counterparts.

To address this shortage, many nursing programs and organizations are providing more funding for nursing students to seek doctoral degrees to replenish the supply of nurse educators and researchers. If you’re a current nursing student, don’t be afraid to talk with your advisor or senior nursing students about pursuing a doctoral degree.

6. Travel nurses can greatly benefit nurses and hospitals alike.

Travel nursing is just one of the ways in which the nation is addressing the decades-long nursing shortage. Being a travel nurse is exactly what it sounds like: You sign a short-term contract and travel to wherever you’re needed most, often for much better pay than staff nurses.

If you’ve always dreamed of packing your nursing bag to see more of the world while making a positive difference in the lives of your patients, becoming a travel nurse can help you achieve both. Although you need roughly 18 months of experience in a nursing specialty to be a travel nurse, the opportunity to travel internationally or across the country for a high pay rate is undeniably appealing.

As a nursing student, you have the potential to make a huge impact in your community. Whether it’s by pursuing a doctoral degree or living the life of a traveling nurse, your choices going forward can make all the difference. By keeping these six nursing shortage facts in the back of your mind, you can opt for an extremely rewarding career path that sets you up for success.

7 Strategies to Prevent Nursing Fatigue

7 Strategies to Prevent Nursing Fatigue

Nurses are incredibly resilient. Each day, they wake up, throw on a set of scrubs, and head into work to perform a demanding 12-hour shift—all while striving to provide the best possible care to their patients. Then, they get home and fall asleep, only to begin the process all over again.

But as a nurse, you know that this barely touches the reality of the situation. In the United States, most hospitals and clinics are woefully understaffed, which often forces nurses to work longer shifts and manage far more patients than they can actually handle. The unfortunate result is nursing fatigue, a common condition which can make you feel both mentally and physically exhausted for days, weeks, or even months.

Almost all nurses have experienced nursing fatigue at some point in their careers, so don’t feel guilty over it. Instead, you can try these seven strategies to combat the effects of nursing fatigue.

1. Leave work at the door.

When you clock out from work, it’s important for you to clock out mentally as well. Leaving your work at the door is essential for avoiding compassion fatigue, a condition which results from repeated exposure to patient suffering while working in a high-stress environment.

In a 2017 study published in the European Journal of Oncology Nursing, researchers found that nurses were more likely to experience compassion fatigue when they were more self-judgmental. If you come home from work and feel guilty about all the things you could have done to make your patient’s life easier, you won’t give yourself time to recharge for the next shift.

2. Practice different forms of self-care.

Nurses go from patient-to-patient, checking their vital signs, administering medicine, and assisting them with daily activities. As a result, it’s easy to get so caught up in caring for patients that you forget to take care of yourself.

To be on top of your game each day, it’s critical that you do things for yourself on a regular basis. Some self-care practices you can try include: going for a walk in nature, starting your day with meditation, or signing up for a healthy subscription meal service.

If you tend to feel guilty about treating yourself, make your forms of self-care double as a bonus for work. For example, do arm work every other day to help lift your patients or invest in the new pair of nursing shoes that you’ve been eyeing for months.

3. Use your vacation days.

You have vacation days, so remember to use them. Taking time off work is key to preventing burnout and will help you return to work feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. If your nursing unit schedules vacations at the start of each year, be sure to get your days in the books—even if you don’t have anywhere in particular to go.

In fact, planning a “staycation” for yourself may be the perfect getaway. You can recharge your batteries by relaxing at home, catching up on things you’ve been neglecting, and spending quality time with the family.

4. Unload your brain after each day.

After a particularly tiring shift, sometimes you just need to declutter your mind and get all your thoughts out of your head. One way to do this is by writing them down on paper or typing them into a Google doc.

Untangling your mind and getting the thoughts out of your head can lower your mental brain fog and allow you to relax after a shift. The process is simple: Just set a timer for 15 minutes and unload your thoughts. Once the time is up, delete your document or click out of it. Reading it over again will only put the words back into your head.

5. Change your work environment.

While it’s no secret that most hospitals and clinics stretch their nurses far too thin, some take it to another level by creating an environment that is downright dangerous. If your health care institution has a poor nurse-to-patient ratio and no system in place to provide help for nurses, it may be worth it to begin searching for a new job.

Though nursing is an in-demand field, finding the right fit can be trickier than it sounds. Don’t be afraid to explore different health care settings to find your ideal work environment. While you might take a pay cut in some instances, the change could be the key to preventing nurse fatigue.

6. Find a specialty you love.

It’s much easier to prevent nursing fatigue when you truly love what you do. If being a registered nurse just isn’t working for you, consider switching to a nursing specialty that makes you happy to stroll into work each day.

While you could always take a nursing specialty quiz to help you nail down your career, one of the best ways to get a feel for a particular specialty is hands-on experience. Are you interested in a position as an emergency room nurse? Talk with the ER manager and let them know you’re ready to help. There are hundreds of nursing specialties, so be sure to explore all your options to find a job that truly ignites your passion.

7. Explore new hobbies.

Every nurse needs a hobby that allows them to decompress and wind down from work. Finding joy in a new hobby can combat nursing fatigue by giving you something to look forward to after a shift.

Some of the best hobbies for nurses often double as stress-relieving activities, such as painting, knitting, woodworking, and jewelry-making. Be sure to explore hobbies that get your heartrate up. Getting involved in a pickup soccer game, going ziplining with friends, and enrolling in a martial arts class can help keep your mind off work while improving your mood.

Long shifts combined with understaffed nursing units are the perfect storm for nursing fatigue. While some health care facilities are working to address the problem, it’s important for you to be proactive about your health and happiness. With the help of these strategies, you can fight back against nursing fatigue and prevent it from affecting your personal and professional life.

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