The World Health Organisation declared 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife with the theme ‘This is our time: 2020 is the Year of the Nurse and Midwife’, the first-ever global period dedicated to this group who collectively are the unsung hero in healthcare delivery. This declaration to me was apt for the diverse work that these highly capable, multi-purpose professionals who are the largest number of any countries’ health workforce do and continue to do for the health and wellbeing of all.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has added a further layer of challenge that these nurses face as they fight both a national and international battle- COVID-19. All health institutions globally have been stretched to its maximum capacity, and that of ICU staff can not be overemphasised. At the center of this struggle are the frontline staff, of which nurses for the majority, and play a very critical role in the fight against the COVID-19. Indeed the nurses are our lifeline and the spine of the NHS, and we must do everything in our means to prevent the NHS from being further overwhelmed because the fight with COVID 19 is by no means over yet. During this pandemic, nurses work several long shifts for many days and weeks, most times away from their families to save the lives of others, you, and me.
Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the frontline nurses and staff who save his life as courageous. He further noted, two nurses, in particular, stood by his side, for 48 hours, when his situation could have gone either way, making courageous and crucial decisions. We can not thank our dedicated, gallant, and lovely HNS staff enough. Nurses deserve every support, encouragement, and love to continue responding to the lifetime global emergency through humanitarian sacrifice, which sometimes they do at the peril of their own life and that of their families.
The Telegraph reports that presently close to fifty NHS staff have died from COVID-19, with close to half being nurses, out of which one was a pregnant immigrant nurse from Ghana who worked at Luton and Dunstable Hospital as well as a 23-year-old nurse who could not also “pull-through”. It was nerve-wracking when I read that a 24-year-old Wolverhampton-based agency Totallycare nurse who died, said to her husband before she was put on a ventilator be “strong and to stay strong for the kids.” Some nurses, fortunately, survived this COVID-19. ‘I am only here now because of those ICU staff’ said by a survivor nurse and COVID-19 patient at University Hospital of North Tees. Nurses could be overwhelmed with the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and its effect on their physical and mental health. On 25th March 2020, a 20-year-old nurse at King’s College Hospital in London was reported to have committed suicide, having recorded about eight COVID-19 deaths. My condolence and love to the families of the member of NHS staff who lost their lives to COVID-19.
With NHS workers losing their due to COVID-19, it is clear that this will lead to reduced staff to deal with the increasing cases, and also putting many fears in others. With such psychological and physical work burden in mind, these nurses need some measures in place to support them during and post COVID-19 for possible psychological trauma. This might be one of the reasons for the general call for NHS staff to be tested for COVID-19.
May I suggest to the Prime minister and his government to set up a fund to support the families of these incredibly dedicated nurses and staff of the NHS we have lost for their brave roles. I think other countries will find it worthy of emulating this call to immortalise these devoted health staff who lost their lives to COVID-19.
Recently the UK government has engaged the services of third-year student nurses to help as frontline workers to save lives and to support Britain’s most significant national asset, the NHS. Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the National Health Service, disclosed that up to 18,000 third-year student nurses nationally would be called to the NHS ‘to help out on the front line’ when he recently addressed the chief nursing officer summit in Birmingham. Although, others have questioned that decision by the government to engage this cadet of health workers who are not ‘highly skilled,’ we all know that we are navigating extraordinary times, and unconventional times requires unconventional remedies. However, the government is indebted to the nursing profession a lot and post-COVID-19, the government may have to consider an expansion of university intake for students nurses, giving of stipends, proper compensation to immigrant nurses, and including the many oversea nurses who could have helped the UK had it not been tight and needless stringent measures in place.
Some nurses do all these work with inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE), the Nursing standard report as Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) noted. I have observed how my students, who are practicing nurses, have to commit to their work, families, and academic work during this critical time. Nurses are indeed superheroes doing all these together and not giving up on any of these. Some of the nurses, who are pursuing higher degrees, have to apply for an extension to their essays. This is to help out in their clinical practice, either hospice, NHS, or care homes, to respond to the COVID crisis. I think these nurses deserve every commendation possible for being diligent and compassionate.
Despite these difficulties that COVID-19 has brought to nurses, I note growing concerns of unprovoked attack and humiliation that some nurses had to encounter, unfortunately. There has been a report of a nurse having been called ‘virus spreader,’ and someone spitting on her face. Others have had their cars smashed, and the Chief Nurse Officer has registered her displeasure noting that such behaviour could make a hard job even harder during this COVID-19 crisis.
As we might expect more rise in the number of cases of COVID-19 before it plateau, we must support our gallant nurses and encourage them as we always do to curb the effect of COVID-19 on human lives and economic damages. Let us all help the government and health authorities as they strategise to bring this situation under control as outlined by the Foreign Secretary this week when made his press briefing with Chief medical officer and chief scientific advisor.
If you are a nurse during this pandemic, anywhere in the world today, you must be so proud of yourself and note how proud the world is about you in this perhaps your lifetime’s humanitarian service to humankind. But to help them, please stay at home to protect the NHS and to save lives as we recover from the shock from this health and economic crises brought by a pandemic coronavirus.