As Covid-19 cases spike all over the country, many healthcare systems are in desperate straits. States that proudly saw thousands of their nurses fly out this spring to “frontline” hotspots like New York City, Seattle, New Orleans, and Boston are now starved for resources themselves. With the latest stage of the pandemic coursing through 48 states, the frontlines are often in smaller cities and rural states that tend to lack the amenities common at metropolitian hospitals. Local and state health care systems are struggling to treat patients amid dire shortages of staff, beds, and equipment.
Under the strain of the present surge, healthcare systems are assigning non-Covid patients to beds in convention centers, hospitals are canceling elective surgeries, ICU nurses are working 60-hour weeks, and nurses who sped to New York in April are now working overtime to treat Covid patients in their hometowns. Areas that are especially overwhelmed, such as El Paso, store their dead in mobile cooling units staffed by jail inmates, and airlift non-Covid patients to hospitals in cities that for the present have escaped the new surge. In addition to seeking aid from National Guard medics, the American Hospital Association’s vice president of quality and patient safety, Nancy Fosterome, told Stat News that some hospitals are even turning to local dentists, Red Cross volunteers, and people with basic health experience to help with tasks that require less training.
In North Dakota, the weight of the Covid caseload—currently the worst in the country and, per capita, one of the worst in the world—has effectively broken the state’s contact tracing system. Kailee Lingang, a University of North Dakota nursing student now helping with contact tracing in the state, told the Washington Post that “Test and trace went by the wayside. Even if we had enough staff to call up everyone’s workplace and contact, there are so many new infections that it wouldn’t be as effective. At this point, the government has given up on following the virus’s path through the state. All we can do is notify people, as quickly as we can, that they have the virus.”
In Indiana, the state and local healthcare systems are sputtering in the wake of a 60% increase in hospitalizations. One doctor in the state, Timothy Mullinder, told MedPage Today that patients “who need to go to the ICU have been stuck in the ER for 24 hours because there are no beds available. Post-operative patients are stuck in the PACU recovery area well over 24 hours because there are no beds available.”
With the entire state out of staffed hospital beds, Iowa’s healthcare system is also overwhelmed. Whitney Neville, an Iowa nurse, told the Atlantic on November 13, “Last Monday we had 25 patients waiting in the emergency department. They had been admitted but there was no one to take care of them.” The strain on the system, combined with the state’s relaxed social distancing policies, prompted one infectious disease doctor to speak in near-apocalyptic tones: “The wave hasn’t even crashed down on us yet. It keeps rising and rising, and we’re all running on fear. The health-care system in Iowa is going to collapse, no question.” The problem, however, extends well beyond North Dakota, Texas, and Iowa. A November 17 Atlantic article found that 22% of all US hospitals are facing staffing shortages, and added, “More than 35 percent of hospitals in Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin are anticipating a staffing shortage this week.”
At the center of the system, nurses and other healthcare workers are working as many shifts as they can, while doing their best to attend to waves of incoming patients. The latest surge, however, has driven a growing number of nurses to express their frustration with incoherent policies and public intransigence on the matter of masking, social distancing, and incredulity over the very existence of the virus. Michelle Cavanaugh, a nurse at the Nebraska Medicine Medical Center, spoke for many when she told a Utah reporter, “We’re seeing the worst of the worst and these patients are dying, and you go home at the end of the night and you drive by bars and you drive by restaurants and they’re packed full and people aren’t wearing masks. I wish that I could get people to see COVID through my eyes.”
Nursing students, nursing schools, school nurses grounded after school closures, and retired nurses are all joining the fight against the rising pandemic.
Here are just a few
examples to be found across the United States:
Belhaven’s School of Nursing are performing community outreach and
educating the public on how to protect themselves and others from the
virus. Students are teaching infection-control techniques, discussed
sanitation practices with the college’s operations team, and have
posted instructions in campus dorms on maintaining safe hygiene.
Senior Rebecca Rylander tells Jackson’s WJTV,
“There is a desperate need for healthcare workers amidst this
pandemic, and I want to help fill that need.”
Long Island, New
At nursing and
medical programs in Long Island, students barred from immediate
contact with patients are playing an active role behind the scenes
and on the front lines. While medical students at the Renaissance
School of Medicine in Stonybrook are conducting online research and
serving patients via telehealth sessions, the Barbara H. Hagan School
of Nursing and Health Sciences tells Newsday
that they have “alumni, graduate students and faculty working in
emergency rooms and testing sites, and undergraduates are working or
volunteering as nursing assistants.”
School nurses have
volunteered at Darien High School’s COVID-19 testing station. Lisa
Grant, a school district nurse at Hindley School, said “We had been
asking our director what we can do to help so when Darien signed up
for a site, we volunteered.” Yvonne Dempsey, of Ox Ridge School was
also ready to help out. Dempsey told the Darien
Times, “As nurses, we put ourselves out there any way we can. I
figured that’s something I can do in my free time with the schools
closed.” She adds, “Testing is the key — testing and isolation
as much as possible is the only way to stop the spread.”
Massachusetts, Caldwell, New Jersey, and elsewhere
In response to calls
from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, nursing faculty
at colleges, universities, and community colleges are rushing to
donate supplies of everything from masks to isolation gowns, to hand
sanitizer. “This is a time when we all need to come together as a
community and work cooperatively to fight this pandemic for the
health and safety of everyone,” MassBay Community College President
David Podell told the Framingham
Source. Jennifer Rhodes, DNP, a faculty member at Caldwell
University’s School of Nursing and Public Health, remarked,
“As a former emergency room nurse, I cannot imagine what they are
experiencing on the front lines right now.”
Retired nurses are
also answering individual states’ call for help. Nebraska
TV spoke to 61-year-old Mary Steiner, a former emergency response
nurse, has volunteered for the Central Nebraska Reserve Core. As she
waits to put to use her training in natural disaster and emergency
preparedness, Mary remarks, “If it’s something that becomes as
serious as what’s going on in New York City right now… They’re
wanting all hands on deck and so regardless of what my workplace
setting has been in the past I know they’re going to be able to use
The University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) College of Nursing recently received a grant designed to improve the health, wellbeing, and care of veterans. The grant is provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration, covering three years of funding focused on recruiting more military veterans into the college’s bachelor’s degree in nursing program. The grant also aims to educate nursing students and practicing nurses on the unique health needs of veterans and active military members.
Dr. Louise LaFramboise, PhD, grant project director and associate professor of the UNMC College of Nursing, tells nonpareilonline.com, “Military veterans and those who continue to serve have unique healthcare needs. Some of those needs are due to exposures, experiences, and injuries while serving. They’ve done so much for us. This grant is about making their health a priority and addressing their unique needs.”
The grant began on July 1, 2019, and is focused on primary care nursing for chronic disease prevention and management, including mental health and substance use disorders. Grant objectives include partnering with University of Nebraska campuses to develop early admission programs, developing a statewide pool of registered nurses and nursing faculty interested in learning more about caring for veterans through a continuing education program, and more,
UNMC’s early admission program will give student veterans enrolled in undergraduate colleges or universities who meet and maintain requirements a guaranteed spot in the UNMC College of Nursing. Those eligible are military veterans and those currently serving in the military.
To learn more about UNMC’s $1.36 million grant to enhance nursing care for veterans, visit here.
Only one group of Americans has more than doubled in size over the past twenty years: the elderly. They’ve experienced more than most in their lifetimes, from world wars to the first man on the moon. Thanks to lengthening life spans, they have much more to experience; over 41.4 million Americans are 65 and older – that’s more than 13.3 percent of the total U.S. population.1
As this golden group ages, how can we serve and love the elders that hold such a special place in our communities and families?
The role of geriatric social workers includes:
Helping senior citizens cope with common problems experienced by the elderly
Ensuring the needs of their clients are met from day-to-day
Providing aid with financial issues, medical care, mental disorders and social problems
Geriatric care manager
Care managers help the elderly and their loved ones develop a long-term care plan and connect with necessary services.
Healthcare business manager
These managers make sure healthcare facilities provide the most effective patient care. This includes planning and coordinating services in hospitals and clinics.
Art therapy uses the visual and auditory arts to help restore function and general wellbeing. Benefits can include:
Increased cognitive skills
Improved motor skills
78 percent of art therapists report working with older adults on a regular basis.2
Grief counselors help seniors process bereavement and loss, as well as cope with thoughts of their own death.
Assisted living administrator
Administrators manage assisted living facilities or services, which provide care to adults who need help with daily tasks like bathing, eating and dressing.
These educators provide the elderly with lessons that inform them about health concerns.
Physical therapists help aging adults strengthen their muscles, increase mobility and improve endurance. They also help with recovery from an injury or illness.
HELPING AND HEALING
The elderly are likely to face hardships, but with our help, they don’t have to go through them alone.
Bereavement and loss
A natural part of the aging process is experiencing the loss of loved ones as well as coping with one’s own progressing age. Seniors often experience bereavement and loss differently than younger adults, which puts them at risk for depression, anxiety and PTSD. Grieving seniors can benefit from the support others as they work through difficult times.
75 percent of adults 50 and older reported finding humor and laughter in their daily lives.3
Family caregivers play a crucial role in keeping the elderly comfortable at home by providing support like:
Loving relationships and companionship
Minimal health and wellness assistance
Support with day-to-day needs
More than 10 percent of the U.S. population have served as unpaid caregivers for older adults.4
Health promotion and self-care
Age can prevent seniors from properly taking care of their bodies, but we can help our loved ones stay beautiful and healthy. Helping the elderly groom themselves, receive regular medical attention and stay active can go a long way in promoting general wellbeing.
In more extreme cases, seniors may experience disabilities or other chronic health conditions. You can support older adults by ensuring they can access the healthcare professionals and resources they need. This might involve assistance with transportation and attending to business, legal and medical concerns.
75 percent of seniors have at least one chronic health condition, and most have two or more.5
End-of-life and palliative care
As our loved ones enter their final days, specialized care can help provide relief from the symptoms and stress. End-of-life and palliative care makes their last days as pain-free and comfortable as possible.
Quality of long-term care
Fortunately, there are a number of geriatric professionals trained to provide excellent care for aging adults in all of these areas. A growing population of the elderly means the demand for these practitioners is greater than ever – and there are more opportunities for you to bring wellness and care into the lives of the elderly than ever.
Our Nurse of the Week is Meg Busing, a nurse, mother, and former camp counselor who founded Camp YouCan, a summer camp in Nebraska for kids with epilepsy. She was inspired to found the camp after going through her own health struggles and after serving as a counselor at a camp for families of kids with cancer before she started nursing school.
After a car accident in 1998 left Busing with a traumatic brain injury that left her struggling with seizures for over a decade, she eventually underwent a successful brain surgery, which has left her seizure free since. Meg started the camp along with her husband Kael Busing, as well as their own nonprofit, the Midwest YouCan Foundation.
Busing tells Omaha.com, “We named it Camp YouCan because kids are always reminded of the things they can’t do. We just want them to see all that they can do and meet other kids with epilepsy.”
Camp YouCan provides a sense of community and a chance to talk with other kids going through the same thing. The camp offers a number of activities including ziplining, tightrope walking, rockwall climbing, archery, and a water slide. By the end of the week, campers leave with new confidence in their abilities, lifelong friendships, and excitement to come back and do it again the next year.
Before opening Camp YouCan, Meg overcame her illness and injuries and became a registered nurse and mother of three. Now she’s sharing with others how to advocate for themselves, build a community of support, and find things they CAN do. To learn more about registered nurse Meg Busing and how she founded her nonprofit and a summer camp for kids with epilepsy, visit here.
Midland University and Methodist Fremont Health opened a new $1 million simulation lab earlier this summer, providing simulated learning to medical students. The lab, constructed inside of Methodist Fremont Health Center, is used both by medical professionals and Midland University students.
The Gaumard Manikins use “Care in Motion” simulation technology, which allows students to treat the Manikins like actual patients in different environments. In addition to the manikins, students are able to practice on the same equipment that Fremont Health medical professionals use every day.