In July, the Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer disclosed the number of healthcare workers infected with the new coronavirus: almost 12,000. While everybody focuses on the toll COVID-19 takes on the population, we should not forget about those who are battling for us: doctors and nurses who are on the front lines of primary patient care and the most exposed professionals to this global tragedy. Let’s explore more about the situation in Los Angeles County, and the role played by registered nurses and DNP nurses in the mitigation of the pandemic’s disastrous effects.
COVID-19 Took a Significant Toll on Healthcare Providers in L.A. County
The month of July was harsh, with Los Angeles County’s population and healthcare professionals. The officials reported over 2,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with the county’s Department of Public Health announcing more than 50 new deaths from the virus. When it comes to the healthcare professionals on the front lines, the situation in Los Angeles County is dire: about 12,000 workers and first responders in L.A. County tested positive for coronavirus. According to Barbara Ferrer, more than 60% of the infected were caregivers in nursing facilities.
These numbers confirm the darkest predictions revealed in a study published earlier in April. According to scientists and news reports, being a healthcare worker is among the most dangerous jobs in the United States in present times. Direct exposure to the virus in hospitals, nursing facilities, clinics, and all healthcare centers leads to severe infection risks for these professionals.
Giving the high level of hospitalization of millions of COVID-19 patients throughout the county, healthcare professionals falling sick is a reason for concern. What is even worse is that L.A. County, just like other counties and cities fighting against the virus, still lacks some numbers due to the delays caused by the new federally-mandated reporting process.
The Situation That Becomes More and More Dangerous
Since, by definition, the nurse profession involves primary care and direct contact not only with patients but with their families, and with each other in the clinic environment, nurses represent one of the most vulnerable professionals in this current pandemic. L.A. County is, obviously, not a singular example. A few months ago, a nursing home in Washington State reported 25 coronavirus deaths and the infection of about 70 employees.
Since the start of the pandemic, the reports show that nursing homes registered about 800 COVID-19 related deaths among their staff. If the public considered mining, logging, or commercial fishing as some of the deadliest occupations to date, the pandemic changed this paradigm completely. The first two places in the riskiest jobs to have right now go to:
healthcare support services (which include nursing assistants, physical therapists, etc.)
and healthcare practitioners & technical professionals (which include doctors, family nurse practitioners, dentists, pharmacists, etc.).
There is no secret that COVID-19 is running havoc in more than half of the nursing homes, care facilities, and clinical environments across the United States. It is currently taking the lives of those whom we rely on to save our lives, and we should all pause and take stock of this tragic situation. Maybe, we could all help the unsung heroes we so often disregard.
As health academics and scholars so eloquently put it, “nursing home workers, including nurses, nursing assistants, and support staff, have quietly become the heroes of this pandemic.” Luckily, the healthcare professionals are taking a stand, contributing every day not only to the mitigation of the pandemic but to policy reform and valid healthcare system changes.
Nurses and Doctors of Nursing Practice Will Be the True Policy Reformers
With public health nurses, specialized nurses, DNPs, and all advanced degree nurses being on the frontline of the current global health crisis, there is no wonder that they are calling out for sustainable policy reforms. The focus should be investments in the nursing profession at all academic levels to improve on and profit from the skills of this critical workforce. The promoters of the healthcare system’s reevaluation and development insist on redesigning and innovating the existing health services with an emphasis on the expansion of the nursing scopes of practice.
Moreover, the new policies proposed by RNs, FAANPs, FAANs, and DNPs comply with the World Health Organization’s State of the world’s nursing 2020 report that urges the participant countries to invest more in nursing education, jobs, and leadership.
With more and more available programs for registered nurses to obtain Master and Doctorate degrees, health leaders can optimize these professionals’ contributions to manage future global public health needs and humanitarian crises.
If the pandemic taught us anything, it taught us that the world needs not only highly trained professionals in nursing but also policymakers and leaders emerging from the nursing ranks. As primary caregivers and professionals bound to work directly with doctors, patients, families, and institutions, nurses have deep insight into how the system could work better to avoid and mitigate public this health crisis and all the others that will follow.