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Nursing Science: Helping Bridge the Gap of Health Disparities

Denetra Hampton

By Denetra Hampton

A Timeline of COVID-19 Pandemic Events And Their Effect On Nursing

Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a movement as an organized activity working toward an objective, such as the Civil Rights Movement. 

 

In this VLOG I introduce you to a timeline of historical movements occurring in the COVID-19 Pandemic, giving rise to poignant and powerful social voices, and sparking visceral conversations in public health.

January 2020: Personal Protective Equipment Outrage

On Jan 30th, 2020, the Covid -19 outbreak was declared a public health emergency after spreading from China to over 20 other countries. On March 11th, 2020 the World Health Organization declared Covid-19, a novel virus outbreak, a global pandemic. The world as we knew it had changed forever.  

 

As demands rose to more than 100 times the normal, personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, gloves and gowns, became a global cause of concern. Healthcare workers around the globe reported critical shortages and the inability to maintain infection control without adequate PPE.

 

In May of 2020, The American Nurses Association conducted a nationwide survey of nurses’ access to PPE: 79% had been encouraged to re-use their equipment, causing concern for their safety.

  

Dr. Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the President, admitted PPE shortages had contributed to excessive deaths in the pandemic.

How Has This Affected Nursing?

Studies show that personal protective equipment (PPE) is significant to nurses’ efficacy and effectiveness in their job.  It is critical for the protection of the patient and of the nurse. This monumental event sparked debates about whether the lives of nurses were valuable to healthcare, causing a number of nurses to choose to leave the profession. Pandemic PPE problems costs lives: an estimated 115,000+ healthcare workers.

March 2020: The USNS Comfort Arrives in New York City

The USNS Comfort arrived in New York City on March 30th, 2020 to ease the pressure of an overwhelming virus. It had last deployed to New York on September 11, 2001, during the 9-11 attack, and its mission of relief remained the same this time around.

 

Armed with over 1000 beds, the military ship would provide much needed help for a sinking healthcare system. This event would set in motion historical relief for healthcare workers in the largest city in the United States: New York City.

How Has This Affected Nursing?

The USNS Comfort treated over 182 patients in New York City over a 1-month long deployment. The mission comprised a 1100-member medical treatment facility that provided high quality care to patients, giving relief to an overwhelmed healthcare team. The moment was a signal of the desperation and crisis of this lone city. It documented the toll of the pandemic on nurses and just how overwhelmed they were.

April 2020: Stay-At-Home Orders

With little testing available and explosions of COVID-19 cases worldwide, states began to recommend that certain vulnerable groups stay at home, including the elderly and those with underlying conditions. These events’ impact on the economic, psychological, and social health of individuals and their families was paramount throughout the historical landscape of the pandemic. 

 

The American Medical Association urged all 50 states to enforce executive orders for the safety of the public and healthcare workers.

 

By the end of April 2020, all 50 states had issued stay-at-home orders.

How Has This Affected Nursing?

Stay-at-home orders have caused far greater health impacts than the coronavirus itself. Because the virus disproportionately affected vulnerable populations, the stay-at-home movement had a tremendous effect on those with chronic disease. Although the movement curbed the spread of the virus, it also had detrimental health effects for those with co-morbidities. This forced nurses nationwide to implore the public to stay at home: not just for their patients but for their own lives. 

May 2020: The Murder of George Floyd

On May 25th 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year old Black man, was murdered near the intersection of East 35th St. and Chicago Ave in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer. This would ignite a racial injustice movement during the pandemic, shining unprecedented attention on inequalities in the African American Community and linking health and racial discrimination.

 

The death of George Floyd would reveal a privilege that African Americans do not have: a right to fair treatment. Studies show that African Americans are 3-4 times more likely to be killed by police, findings that during the pandemic that led to civil unrest and a movement for Black Lives. 

How Has This Affected Nursing?

Systemic racism affects everyone. Although designed to cripple specific groups, racism can eventually destroy individuals and the world. The role of nursing is primary to patient care; when the patient experience is tainted with bias and prejudice from nurses, it pollutes the entire profession.

August 2020: New York's Nursing Home Nightmare

They called it New York’s Nursing Home Nightmare: the lawsuit between the Empire Center v. Department of Health would leave an indelible mark on the history of nursing home reform. On August 3, the Empire Center filed a Freedom of Information Law request for the records of the full death toll of nursing home residents.

 

On January 28, 2021, the Attorney General of New York, Letitia James, released a report finding Governor Andrew Cuomo had understated the toll of the Covid-19-related deaths in state nursing homes by as much as 50 percent.

 

As those living in nursing homes are at a high risk of becoming infected by the coronavirus, deaths from this population have been catastrophic: over 185,000 residents. 

How Has This Affected Nursing?

Nursing homes have faced financial and staffing crises for decades. The pandemic was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The exposure of long-standing disparities have forced the nursing profession to evaluate how they will function in this area of care.

December 2020: Vaccination Distribution Inequities

Vaccine distribution began in the United States in December 2020 with administration of the Pfizer vaccine, the first to receive emergency use authorization from the FDA. On December 14th, critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York, received the first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine in the United States.

 

As health disparities continue to run rampant, vaccine distribution around the globe mimic a famine. Vaccines are a critical strategy for relief from the pandemic, so vaccine access became one of the most significant movements in the history of the pandemic. A flawed vaccine distribution plan led to the loss of even more lives and revealed a global wall of inequality, thus setting history in motion.

How Has This Affected Nursing?

In conclusion, as the world moves toward post-pandemic recovery, some are implementing plans more quickly while others remain in acute crisis. The extent of the lingering impact of our social, economic, and health challenges will depend on the actions of our leadership. And as we focus on re-building, I rest well knowing someone has the watch — NURSES.

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