COVID-19: how the pandemic is reshaping social care nursing
A blurring of organisational boundaries and how we share information look like being among the changes wrought by the coronavirus
Every generation of nurses has its moment when the nursing profession comes to the fore. For some this moment is defined by conflict, for others by epidemics. But few of these moments touch the entire profession, as COVID-19 has.
International Year of the Nurse and Midwife could not have come at a more poignant time as nurses, along with all other healthcare professionals, have been propelled to the front of the national consciousness in the battle against coronavirus.
Serious considerations lie beneath the seemingly simple decision to ‘stay at home’
Within a few days we have gone from business as usual to a country on shut down. This is the only way we can slow the spread of this new disease as we learn how to deal with it. But there are serious considerations that lie beneath the seemingly simple decision to ‘stay at home’.
‘Nurses working in social care settings look after some of the frailest and most vulnerable people in our population’
Our health and social care system is complex. While the main focus of the media has understandably been on the NHS and the availability of hospital beds and ventilators, the importance of community-based nursing services should not be overlooked. Nurses working in social care settings look after some of the frailest and most vulnerable people in our population.
Technology has transformed the response of the social care sector. New and supportive social media groups have quickly accrued large memberships and are a tangible sign of nursing leadership across the sector. They vary in nature, reflecting diverse memberships, which include care home providers, home managers, academics and social care nurses.
Never before have so many policies and guidelines and so much general advice been exchanged so freely and with such good intent.
The nature of all this multiplatform communication has, however, revealed an underlying problem. These recently established groups are already reaching a point where messages are getting lost due to the fast pace of activity. There are many questions, and much advice is being shared repeatedly because it can be hard to find it again on these platforms.
No one platform of trusted and evidence-based guidance to protect ourselves and those in our care
There are many sources of advice, guidance and standard operating procedures out there to support our work during this pandemic, and these groups are clearly making good use of them.
The various royal colleges, the government and professional organisations are working tirelessly to develop guidance, and this is seized on by social care nurses searching for the best information to help them care for and protect the most vulnerable in our society.
The concern for us is that there is no one platform of trusted and evidence-based guidance to protect ourselves and those in our care. Social care nurses are trawling the internet and social media platforms for hours to find what they need for their specific areas of practice.
‘Supported by the right technology, sharing everything may become the new norm in a post-pandemic society’
What we need is a consensus approach – one set of guidance for various settings, agreed by a collaborative and updated as and when necessary. This collaborative approach should include the voices of staff at the front line and be responsive to context-specific issues.
Social media groups are proving vital but there must be a better way of sharing information. Perhaps our tech colleagues could help us to sort the most important and urgent issues so we can solve them together by theme.
The past few weeks have seen a real sense of creativity and generosity in the health and care sector, a change in focus of regulatory scrutiny and a largely can-do attitude. Organisational boundaries are being blurred and we are sharing everything. This was not the norm but perhaps, supported by the right technology, it will become the new norm in a post-pandemic society.
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About the authors
Richard Adams is chief executive of Sears Healthcare