Nurses have long been unsung heroes of the medical community. But that tide began to turn in 2020 as the world confronted the COVID-19 pandemic and realized just how invaluable nurses are to public health.
According to the American Nurses Association, nearly 400 nurses in the United States died as a result of COVID-19 within eight months of a pandemic being declared in America. Globally, data from the International Council of Nurses indicated that roughly 1,500 nurses lost their lives to COVID-19 by the end of October 2020.
That data is sobering and serves as a reminder that nurses put their lives on the line each day they go to work. Such sacrifices are worthy of widespread support, and there are many ways ordinary citizens can thank nurses working in their communities.
• Support efforts to protect nurses. Despite widespread recognition of how vital they are to public health, nurses still may not have unbridled access to personal protective equipment (PPE). An ANA survey of nurses working in various health care settings conducted in fall 2020 found that 42% of nurses indicated they were still experiencing widespread or intermittent PPE shortages. In fact, more than half of the 21,000-plus nurses surveyed reported that they were forced to re-use single-use PPE, a practice they said makes them feel unsafe. The public can do its part by urging local lawmakers to support legislation that increases domestic production of PPE so the brave men and women in the nursing profession can feel safe when doing their jobs.
• Give nurses and their families a night off from cooking. Long shifts in stressful situations have taken a toll on nurses and their families. Neighbors can pitch in by offering to cook and deliver meals or pay for takeout for nurses and their families. This simple gesture can provide a much-needed break for nurses and their spouses who have been stretched thin during the pandemic, and it's a great way to remind nurses their heroic efforts are not going unnoticed.
• Help out with chores. Before going to the grocery store, text or call a friend or neighbor in the nursing field to see if he or she needs anything from the store. If nurses shop online for their groceries, arrange to pick them up so nurses can spend more time relaxing at home with their families. During warm weather seasons, offer to mow the lawn or help with leaf pickup.
Nurses have made immeasurable sacrifices throughout the pandemic. Communities can come together in various and often simple ways to show nurses just how much those sacrifices are appreciated.