The importance of protecting nurses’ health during the Covid-19 pandemic, as we move out of lockdown.
The leadership and professionalism shown by nursing staff during the Covid-19 pandemic is a testament to their commitment to patient safety. The nursing profession has been at the forefront of the response to the pandemic, leading innovation and quality of treatment and care.
This has to include making sure there is a smooth transition but also nursing staff are properly protected and supported.
We are also very clear health and social care systems have to be prepared if there is another spike in Covid-19.
Wellbeing and protection of staff
Nursing staff, in all setting and sectors across health and social care, deserve to know that their safety and wellbeing is at the top of the agenda. They must also be fully involved in all of the steps to bring health and care services back to normal.
It remains important the ball is not dropped in relation to the protection of staff and associated risk assessments – particularly when it comes to the risks to BAME staff.
The Royal College of Nursing is very clear there still needs to be full and proper risk assessments to control the risk of exposure to Covid-19 and that all identified risks are acted on. As required by law, these must be reviewed regularly or following any incident or change in circumstances.
No member of staff should be put at risk just for doing their job.
UK Governments and health and social care organisations need to identify learning from the pandemic and address the serious issues that emerged, particularly in relation to PPE and staffing as well as raising concerns when staff are at risk
Staff mental health
Whilst much of the focus has been on the physical safety of staff during the pandemic we cannot forget about mental health. It is vital there is now proper management and support for the health and wellbeing of nursing staff. This includes enabling staff to take breaks at work , including facilities in which to have those breaks, and time to take their annual leave. We also need to see working patterns reviewed and controlled to prevent long shifts or excess hours being worked.
We know that Covid-19 is likely to have a considerable impact on the mental health of nursing staff. This means we also need to see a particular commitment for all employers to make available and fund timely access a confidential counselling and psychological support for all staff. Importantly, staff must be able to self-refer to these services.
Looking to the future
Even though we need to be prepared for a second spike it is important now we look to the future. For this to be truly effective nurse leaders must be given the authority and resources to do this.
All sections of health and care need to be able to future proof the infection control and critical care capabilities and capacity achieved during the first 100 days.
Throughout the pandemic nursing staff have shown their commitment and professionalism. We have also seen student and retired nurses step up.
Now though it’s the time to care for those who have been caring. Whilst the clapping may have stopped the need to support nursing staff must not. Only by doing this can we properly look to the future with the same care for our nursing staff that they showed for their patients.