Could COVID-19 end in better nurses?

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By Cole Bradley, for High Ground News

The coronavirus pandemic has created chaos and challenges for healthcare workers and hospitals across the country, but there are some bright spots.

Lauren Martin believes that for most nurses, the pandemic is providing opportunities for better patient care and better learning environments for new nurses like her.

“Most people think of New York and places like that that are overwhelmed. At the hospital I’m working at, we’re not overwhelmed,” she said.

“It gives you time to pay attention to your patient … it gives you time to understand each piece of being a competent and safe nurse.”

Martin graduated from Baptist College of Health Sciences on April 17 and started work at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Desoto on a floor that isn’t seeing COVID-19 patients.

Susan Ferguson is the chief nursing executive at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Desoto. She confirmed that they’ve seen a drop in patients, as have most U.S. hospitals.

The deficit is largely due to the halt on out-patient procedures and elective surgeries, but people are also avoiding emergency rooms for fear of coming in contact with the virus or using resources needed for COVID-19 patients.

Tennessee lifted its statewide ban on outpatient procedures and non-emergency surgeries in early May and elective surgeries resumed at Baptist-Desoto mid-May.

Once again, healthcare workers are adjusting to a new normal that balances patient care and safety with a rebounding patient load. For Martin and other new nurses who launched their careers in the pandemic, there may be an advantage there too.

“Technically, this is my normal,” said Martin. “I don’t know any different at this point.”

HOW TO MAKE A BETTER NURSE

The majority of nurses were excellent healthcare providers before the pandemic who served patients to the best of their ability and beyond. But studies have shown nurses can only spend around 33% of their time working face-to-face with patients.

Fewer patients means more time to improve on what they do best.

Newly registered nurse Lauren Martin takes a photo with Baptist College of Health Sciences’ blue healer mascot while driving through her graduation parade. The school’s in-person graduation was canceled due to pandemic. (submitted)

Martin said nurses on her floor usually tend to six to eight patients at a time. Now they’re averaging four to six. 

“I’m able to slow down and pay attention to my patients and pick out things that are important, key pieces,” she said.

Ferguson said the hospital is helping patients in isolation communicate remotely with family and friends, but Martin said, unfortunately, there’s only so much that can be done remotely.

“They sit in that room most of the day with the door closed by themselves. They’ll call family members, but there are only so many people who can talk,” she said.

Now more than ever, her job includes chitchat. Far from idle, these talks can have a profound effect on health outcomes and patient satisfaction.

“Sometimes just standing in there talking to them for an extra five minutes is what they need, and we’re able to do that right now because we have a lower patient load,” said Martin.

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