2020 has been an incredibly rough year for humanity as a whole, thanks in large part to the COVID-19 outbreak. Straining medical capacity, social cohesiveness and economic output to their breaking points, virtually everybody has felt multiple forms of pressure or pain due to this pandemic. Whether it be the loss of a loved one, a loss of employment or a loss of socializing with friends and family members, everybody is experiencing difficult times currently.
Because of the nature of COVID-19, overcoming it has proven far more difficult than other viruses. Being multiple times more contagious and harboring a variety of more harmful side effects, the need for qualified medical staff to handle patients who have fallen ill is greater than ever. On top of this, and in recent weeks, a spike in cases appears to be developing just in time for peak flu season.
Ultimately, the healthcare sector is struggling due to COVID-19’s impact, but how exactly is this virus causing grief for healthcare providers? As it turns out, there are several contributing factors.
COVID Combat Fatigue
It is quite common for healthcare workers on the front-lines of any illness or epidemic to experience a wide variety of emotions. Doctors and nurses are just like us; they have emotions and can experience pain through the loss and suffering of others. Many healthcare workers are used to working in settings where patients pass away, but the sheer toll that COVID has brought upon many hospitals and healthcare facilities is unprecedented in modern times.
Many of these healthcare professionals have been fighting against these trends for nearly a year. As the New York Times published recently, doctors and nurses are experiencing “combat fatigue”. Being on the front-lines of this healthcare battle for so long is a physically and emotionally-exhausting experience that is leaving a major impact on the healthcare industry.
Hospitals and doctor’s offices are experiencing substantially higher turnover among nurses than what had occurred pre-COVID, accelerating the need for new nursing graduates. Fundamentally, the trauma and pain being experienced by those staffing in our hospitals and emergency centers are slowly eroding the capacity of the healthcare sector itself.
Sheer Shortage of Nurses and Doctors
As was mentioned previously, COVID is grinding away at current healthcare bandwidth due to the constant trauma and misery healthcare workers are having to experience. This increased turnover is lowering the number of available nursing graduates and doctors available to treat patients on a national and global scale, which creates additional stress on the healthcare system.
However, and even prior to COVID, there was still a lack of qualified doctors and nurses. Given that online accelerated BSN nursing programs now offer training from anywhere in the world, the pandemic isn’t an excuse to keep entry-level nurses from rising the ranks in employment. While many more entry level nursing graduates are needed to fill the void being exacerbated by COVID, additional highly-trained nurses are needed, too.
For those wanting to pursue online accelerated BSN nursing programs with accreditation, now is the perfect time to do so. By investing in education today in a sector where demand is high and turnover is larger than normal, nurses can position themselves in good occupational standing for years to come.
Lack of Emergency & ICU Facilities
In the early stages of the COVID pandemic, medical capacity was a huge concern. Initially, people were not aware of the deadliness of this strain of coronavirus, making it difficult to ramp up the number of hospital beds until a crisis was already unfolding. While great strides have since been made in this regard, many areas throughout the world are still not out of the woods in terms of potential dangers.
For instance, Penn Medicine data from August shows that half of low-income communities have access to zero ICU beds. This means that receiving care for these individuals often involves traveling to distant towns or cities, placing further strain on the broader ICU and emergency systems of those communities.
As the number of cases begins to skyrocket to unprecedented levels during the winter, the need for ICU and emergency bandwidth is being tested once again. While many facilities have since adapted, the potential for greater strain on the system is very possible as 2020 gives way to 2021.
Strains on Equipment and Gear
One of the biggest problems during the initial stages of COVID was the lack of proper protective gear and equipment. Many nurses and doctors were left critically exposed to the dangers of the disease due to their budgets being overstretched, local governments not being able to respond effectively to the crisis, and manufacturers of such gear simply not being able to keep up with demand.
The result? Nurses wearing trash bags over their clothing as protective layers, doctors recycling masks in an attempt to safeguard themselves, and some medical facilities even lacking the necessary basic equipment to diagnose or treat patients.
This strain is still being felt today (though most healthcare facilities are able to access basic levels of equipment and gear). Once again, as the pandemic reaches record numbers of cases through the winter of 2020-21, this continued strain could become even worse.
Sheer Emotional Exhaustion
As was mentioned with regard to combat fatigue, the sheer level of repetitive loss can add up over time for healthcare workers. Without relief or respite from a deadly illness that continues to push healthcare workplaces to the brink, it is not surprising that individual healthcare workers are fully exhausted.
Many healthcare providers are recommending increased rotation of staff wherever possible so as to minimize the amount of emotional exhaustion they experience. While it is not a permanent fix to the issue that healthcare workers are experiencing with such demands on their schedules and emotional capacities, providing the occasional break from such duties and allowing workers to recharge at home will help minimize the aforementioned issues of trauma and turnover.
Fundamentally, the healthcare system is under duress. Never designed to handle such a huge demand at once, employees and institutions alike are feeling major strains. Workers needing emotional support and rest, healthcare facilities needing bigger budgets and the sector as a whole needing greater numbers of staff are just a few of the reasons why the healthcare sector has been affected so badly by COVID.