Comment

COVID-19: we must not forget the vital role community nurses play during lockdown

Community nurses find solutions to challenges – but not at the price of their own well-being 
Illustration of stressed out community nurses

Community nurses are tenacious and find solutions to constant challenges but not at the price of their own health and well-being

This latest lockdown is a further challenge to our already stretched health and social care system. Our acute colleagues are under unprecedented pressures, and this is equally the case for community nurses.

Community services, including hospices, have been reconfigured to meet local needs, with many nurses working in different roles. Such reconfiguration, the loss of capital and diminished funding could potentially have a long-term impact on community provision.

Nurses are exhausted, overwhelmed,

...

Community nurses are tenacious and find solutions to constant challenges – but not at the price of their own health and well-being 

Illustration of stressed out community nurses wearing masks
Illustration: Annette Taylor-Anderson

This latest lockdown is a further challenge to our already stretched health and social care system. Our acute colleagues are under unprecedented pressures, and this is equally the case for community nurses.

Community services, including hospices, have been reconfigured to meet local needs, with many nurses working in different roles. Such reconfiguration, the loss of capital and diminished funding could potentially have a long-term impact on community provision.

Nurses are exhausted, overwhelmed, demoralised

Staff are exhausted, overwhelmed and demoralised; many have lost family, friends and colleagues and are often nursing while grieving personal loss. This level of exposure to death and dying is unprecedented; the numbers of people who are dying at home has increased significantly throughout the pandemic and the mainstay of care has been provided by community nursing.

Specialist nurses may have access to high-quality clinical supervision, but this may not be so readily available across the community workforce – and is an area which needs to be addressed if we are to keep our workforce well.

Nursing is a high-risk profession with higher rates of burnout, mental health issues and suicide; these risks can only be amplified by current experiences. A national long-term strategy is needed to ensure the health and mental well being of the whole nursing family.

‘Specialist nurses may have access to high-quality clinical supervision, but this may not be so readily available across the community workforce’

Visit our well-being resource centre

Confidence comes from our ability to provide high quality compassionate care within our scope of practice; we then feel well, valued and able to manage the most turbulent situations. Competence is built up over years of exposure as we develop intuitive intelligence.

Long-term resources must be available to support nurse well-being

COVID-19 has changed this dramatically. Staff need to learn new skills and develop their competence rapidly, often without time to consolidate and reflect. This may be an acceptable and an immediate response to this national emergency, but long-term resources must be available to support nurses.

The vaccine roll-out invariably falls on nurses to oversee and deliver, adding more work to an already overfull bucket.

Community nurses are tenacious; they will find solutions to these constant challenges. However, their own health and well-being must not be the price that is paid.


Carolyn Doyle (@carriep100) is the RCN professional lead for community and end of life care 

 

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursingolderpeople.com
  • Bi-monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs