COVID-19: Nurses are here for the public – the government must be there for them

Delivering PPE supplies is a start, but staff will need further support on the front line of this pandemic

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The army delivers medical masks to St Thomas’ Hospital in London Picture: Getty Images 

We are living in extraordinary times, amid a public health emergency the likes of which most of us – fortunately – have never encountered in our lifetimes.

Much of the world is in self-isolation or lockdown as COVID-19 forces us to distance ourselves from the people and pleasures we hold dear.

Protecting our nursing workforce is a priority too

Yet as the public is told to hide away indoors, nurses and other healthcare staff are heading out on the front line of this pandemic.

Protecting the vulnerable and the wider public is, of course, the priority, but if the same care is not given to nurses then who will care for the patients with COVID-19?

Nurses act in the best interests of their patients, but are human beings too, and you have the well-being of your own families and loved ones to worry about as well.

As I write this, the army is delivering supplies of personal protective equipment to hospitals and other healthcare settings, following an outcry from staff over shortages of masks, gowns and other items. This must happen at pace and reach all of you putting your lives at risk for the rest of us; the country owes you this.

Nursing through this crisis takes its toll on well-being

It is an incredibly stressful time for healthcare staff and anything that can be done to ease inevitable anxiety must be.

This includes ensuring you have access to healthy food to keep yourselves as well as possible as you care for those facing their darkest hours.

No one can fail to have been both moved and outraged by the emotional video of critical care nurse Dawn Bilbrough, who found the supermarket shelves empty following a 48-hour stint of work. 

Many of our readers will also be working excess hours as the crisis escalates. Your roles have never been more safety-critical, and it is important that attention is given to your mental health and levels of fatigue.

Government must step up as nurses are

Nurses are doing and will continue to do their best in incredibly difficult circumstances. However, the profession was already overstretched before this crisis began, with huge nursing vacancy rates and a lack of investment in the health service.

The public and all of us at Nursing Standard are full of admiration for the nurses and other healthcare staff who are responding to this unprecedented situation. 

As ever – and poignantly during the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife – you have our backs. The government must have yours.

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