Nurses are being called upon more heavily than before to work together during the global coronavirus pandemic. Through social media, nurses can connect not only on a national level but on a global platform. They share patient concerns, best practices and lessons learned from other countries to fight infection in their own community. Nurses are rising to the challenges set forth. They play a vital role in stemming the tide of infectious disease across the nation and worldwide.
Nursing in a Global Community
Throughout history, nurses have been instrumental in recognizing and responding to infectious diseases. Over a century ago with the Spanish flu of 1918, nurses provided palliative and end-of-life care in all areas from hospitals to rural farmhouses. Today, nurses not only provide patient care, they also work tirelessly to minimize transmission.
Belonging to the most trusted profession, nurses have a critical role in infection prevention strategies. They educate the public, listen to the concerns of anti-vaxxers and counsel parents to counter their fears and myths about vaccination. They constantly learn better ways of talking to those reluctant to vaccinate and maintain social distancing.
Infectious diseases do not stop at national borders. Controlling the spread of infectious disease requires “global cooperation in response, planning, prevention, preparedness and care that reflects health equity issues among nations,” says Dr. Deborah Benes, a professor of nursing at Fitchburg State University. She teaches a course titled Nursing in a Global Community in Fitchburg State’s online RN to BSN program.
“The concept is to give students an understanding of health concerns around the world,” says Dr. Benes. She also discusses the inequality in nursing knowledge globally. She notes that areas with few nursing schools and the least amount of nursing education tend to also have high populations. A low ratio of healthcare workers to population count can impact the spread, and also the mitigation, of infectious disease. In other words, when there aren’t enough healthcare workers to provide the necessary education, the population is less able to fend for itself.
Dr. Benes prepares students to focus not only on the clinical side of nursing but also on the “social impact and the importance of the social justice concerns” of infectious disease. Misinformation can severely damage a community, and so it is important that nurses are able to communicate clearly and collaborate with community leaders to spread accurate information about how diseases spread and how to prevent them.
6 Ways Nurses Can Fight Infectious Disease
While nurses can certainly fight disease through direct patient care, there are other steps they can take as well:
- Educate friends, family, church groups and your community on how to prevent the spread of infection.
- Combat misinformation online by directing people to reputable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO).
- Refresh your familiarity with your institution’s policies regarding Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
- Contact government officials to advocate for additional support for nurses on the frontlines of infectious disease control.
- Stay home if you are feeling unwell or suspect you have been exposed to someone with infectious disease.
- Advocate for vaccines and provide education on how they can not only prevent disease but also minimize the risk of major complications such as paralysis, blindness and deafness.
What If You Want to Specialize in Infection?
If you want to take the fight against infectious disease a step further, you can become an infection control nurse, communicable disease nurse, nurse epidemiologist or even a public health nurse or community health nurse.
Infection control nurses educate others on how to prevent and contain outbreaks. They are responsible for all stages of infectious disease management — detection, prevention and containment. A nurse epidemiologist or communicable disease nurse helps reduce overall infection risk and address infection control and spread. They collect and analyze infection surveillance, often working with public health officials. During an outbreak, they may map infection by going door to door to develop a timeline and trace contacts.
How Can Nurses Advocate for Infection Control?
The American Nurses Association advocates for “clear, evidence-based guidelines and sufficient resources to support our nation’s registered nurses and other frontline healthcare providers in safely and effectively responding to the virus [COVID-19] and protecting the public.” With communities looking to nurses for guidance during times of uncertainty, you can take advantage of this unique opportunity to make your voice heard.
Even though healthcare has changed drastically in the last 100 years, nurses continue to hold a key role in global infection and health emergencies. No other health professionals are closer to their communities than nurses, leading on the frontlines of care, and instinctively meeting the needs of populations both at home and abroad.
Learn more about Fitchburg State University’s online RN to BSN program.