Along with every other essential and emergency worker across the nation, healthcare workers are selflessly putting themselves on the front lines to keep society functioning, even during this unprecedented time of COVID-19. While these healthcare workers took a vow to better the community, and protect the health of those within it, they hardly expected to sign themselves up to be unprotected and subjected to the kinds of risks that come with a pandemic. Operating without proper PPE and working at overloaded hospitals even as the curve of the COVID-19 outbreak begins to flatten, those who are putting themselves and their health and safety on the line are the true heroes.
I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by these heroes, in some form or another, as my mom is a registered nurse, although not currently traditionally practicing in a clinical setting, and my older sister is currently studying for her bachelor of nursing degree (they are both experts at prescribing ibuprofen though!). If there are subsequent spikes of the virus, or a similar infectious disease pandemic, in the following years, it could very well be one, or both, of my family members fighting the outbreak on the front lines. For those who are considering entering a health occupation, this pandemic displays the sacrifice that is somewhat expected of healthcare providers, and this moral obligation may ultimately deter some candidates.
My mom, Tammy Darbro, received her associate’s degree from Indiana University- Purdue University Indianapolis in 2000, and after taking a nearly 10-year hiatus to raise my sisters and me, she resumed her studies at a local community college to obtain her nursing certificate. She then worked at a local hospital for a few years, before switching over to case-management in an office setting. Meanwhile, my sister, Hannah Darbro, is currently a freshman studying nursing at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, with plans to devote her degree to contributing to humanitarian-based health work across the world.
While both my sister and my mom are mostly removed from fighting this pandemic, this health crisis that the coronavirus is causing involves all kinds of healthcare workers.
The following interview offers valuable insight concerning the impacts that this virus will have on the future of the entire healthcare system.
Assuming you had the skills and/ or training to safely practice in the healthcare field right now, would you be willing to enter, or return, to the hospital environment as a nurse during this pandemic?
TD: There is a significant shortage of jobs in the system right now because most clinics are not operating at full capacity, so some layoffs have occurred. In that case, I think it is only fair and safe for those who have the most recent experience to be the first once recruited to serve at an overloaded hospital. For someone who is rusty in terms of clinical experience, I would be some sort of burden on the system, as I would not be able to be as helpful or useful to the system or the patients at first, as I simply do not remember much from my clinicals.
HD: I think that having a first hospital job experience in the middle of a pandemic would be frightening for any medical or nursing student that could potentially be heading into that field. While we are all trained for extreme situations, and understand the risks that come with these occupations, I don’t think anyone was ready for a pandemic of this size. But hypothetically I would, of course, enter the front line as a healthcare provider at a time like this if I were able to.
How, if at all, do you think this pandemic will change the way, or what, curriculum nursing students are taught?
TD: While I don’t think that any new or potential nurse will shy away from this profession due to the outbreak, I think that more educational precautions will be put into place to help students better understand not only how these pandemics arise and spread, but how nurses can properly handle these situations.
HD: Students and professors at my school have already been discussing the changes and modifications that will occur to the nursing ethics curriculum following this pandemic. COVID-19 will no doubt have a lasting effect on the nursing curriculum at universities across the nation. Students must simply understand what their commitment to protect other’s health means in times like this, and how we must be willing to put ourselves at risk, if it is the only way to flatten the curve and get the job done.
What kind of changes do you wish to see in the medical field/ society in general following the COVID- 19 outbreak?
TD: I hope that in general, people are more prepared to not only protect themselves from the virus but also protect others. I hope that the cooperation concerning social distancing will become stronger if it is necessary again due to another possible spike in cases. I think that people with generally be more prepared with masks and other PPE in case another pandemic arises that challenges the national production and stockpile of PPE.
HD: Overall, I hope that people are more aware of the little things that they used to take for granted. I hope that people will take this time during the pandemic to do anything they can to stop the spread of the virus and flatten the curve. This is really a learning opportunity; we, as a country, need to be more prepared for something like this to happen at any moment.
Three weeks ago, the first emergency alert seeking healthcare providers was sent out to the state of Illinois, urging any healthcare workers who were not already practicing, to consider contributing to combating the spread of the virus. Those who had retired, or let their licenses lapse in the past five years, were encouraged to register online to join and relieve the overloaded healthcare force. According to IllinoisHelps.net, those who register could be “contacted to work in a hospital surge or alternative housing setting,” if it is deemed necessary. For my mother, a current healthcare caseworker, she has been provided an opportunity from her employer to volunteer with any of the hospitals, clinics, or other care centers, that are deemed in-need by the IllinoisHelp.net organization, while still being compensated for her time by her original employer. For her, like many other nurses who do not use their degrees or training in a clinical setting every day, a difficult decision arises: possibly further the burden on hospitals due to a lapse in training, or watch the healthcare system buckle under the immense influx of critical COVID-19 patients.