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Dr Jen Bichel-Findlay FAIDH CHIA
Chair, Nursing and Midwifery Community of Practice, AIDH
The Impact of a Pandemic on Nursing and Midwifery
By Dr Jen Bichel-Findlay
It is hard to envisage the difference in circumstances from the time in early 2019 when we learnt that 2020 would be the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife to now when we are looking back at 2020 for very different reasons.
The pandemic has shown health systems across the globe the need for agility, flexibility, and innovation.
Nursing and midwifery, whilst anticipating a year-long celebration of how much our professions have progressed since the birth of Florence Nightingale 200 years earlier, found themselves responding to a long list of new issues and different work situations and work environments.
Nurses and midwives became pivotal to the global healthcare response to COVID-19, with our sense of individual sacrifice, responsibility and commitment to high quality patient/client care, and professional collegiality amplified during the pandemic.
Both professions have had to face similar challenges:
- Impacting on the preparation of the undergraduate nurse and midwife (clinical rotations reduced or temporarily halted)
- Influencing the global nursing and midwifery workforce (handicapping countries reliant on migration to meet staffing targets)
- Changing the way we delivered care (striving to achieve closeness with patients/clients to provide care and comfort in a socially distance environment)
- Providing psychological and social support for our patients/clients who were unable to have the support of their family and friends to the extent they normally would due to visiting restrictions (particularly the critically ill, women experiencing labour, and those with mental health needs)
- Acknowledging the stress and anxiety of our peers (constantly aware of the risks of their occupation, often resulting in burnout and ‘disease carrier’ stigmatisation)
- Implementing strategies to prevent inadequacies in the healthcare system (preventing staffing shortages, addressing nosocomial infection prevention and surveillance, and ensuring precautions were taken in aged care and long-term settings), and
- Researching COVID-19 prevention and management (developing relevant evidence informed policies and health education to support the community and high-risk individuals).
The pandemic, while exacerbating some longstanding problems faced by nurses and midwives and disrupting routine primary healthcare and immunisation, also highlighted the potential of technology to improve how we deliver care and how technology is vital in dealing with this infectious disease.
Most nurses and midwives would have experienced a greater presence of technology or digitisation in their daily activities in 2020, if not only an increased presence of telehealth and virtual care options.
The concurrency of our International Year with a global pandemic has successfully illustrated the centrality of our professions to the positive outcomes for our patients and clients, and why we need to be at the centre of new developments.
Nursing and midwifery need to remain committed to the endgame of healthcare digitisation, the importance of data and information in making care delivery decisions, and becoming a pandemic-ready workforce in case or when we find ourselves in this situation again. It is hoped that nursing and midwifery informaticians, through teamwork, technology, and compassion, can transform our future in a post-COVID world.