ICN’s Response to Support Nurses in COVID-19 Pandemic

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ICN President Annette Kennedy
ICN President Annette Kennedy
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Globally there are disturbing reports of nurses at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic not having enough personal protective equipment (PPE).

This is one of the issues where the International Council of Nurses is serving as the voice of nurses across the world, emphasizing the need to protect nurses and other health care workers so that they can continue to care for others.

Nurses on the frontlines at risk

Howard Catton, CEO of the ICN, stated in an interview with BBC World News on March 25 that the health worker infection rate in Italy was around 9% and a recent disturbing 12% in Spain.

In a press statement Annette Kennedy, President of the ICN, expressed her sorrow about the deaths of nurses in the line of duty while working with COVID-19 patients. ‘As the global voice of nursing, ICN sends its condolences and best wishes to the families and loved ones of nurses who have made the ultimate sacrifice in their efforts to do their best to help others,” Kennedy said. She pointed out that, despite the risk to themselves, nurses across the world are continuing to selflessly care for their patients.

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The ICN’s work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

Since the beginning of the year, the virus has been at the center of the ICN’s work, raising the alarm on issues faced by nurses and the global community. When nurses get sick, it affects not only the individual but also reduces the overall capacity to look after the sick.

The ICN has met with Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, to discuss the pandemic and particularly also its grave concerns about the continued and unacceptable shortages of PPE for nurses and other health care workers.

The organization is also urging governments and other decision-makers to prioritize their obligation to protect nurses and health care workers. Manufacturers also need to step up to the plate and increase production and distribution of the necessary PPE to all countries where it is needed.

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The ICN has also highlighted the need for sufficient rest breaks for nurses, psychological support to help deal with the stresses of the situation, and more testing of health workers.

Nurses can help inform best response

Furthermore, the ICN is continuously communicating with its member states and engaging with policymakers around the response to the virus. “The best policy will be policy that’s informed by nursing experience, nursing voice, and nursing leaders,” said Catton in a video update on the ICN’s work around COVID-19.

In talking to nurses from countries who have managed to stem the tide of the virus, Catton found that the most important message was testing and more testing, followed by tracing the spread of the virus by contacting people directly. “They have used technology to trace where people may have been in contact with infected people. They have taken the fight to the virus – they’ve gone after it and they have seen some results,” he said.

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Pandemic puts spotlight on nursing

When 2020 was declared as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, no one could have anticipated the overwhelming pandemic which would put such a spotlight on the irreplaceable work of the nursing profession.

The aims and the objectives of the 2020 Year of the Nurse and Midwife were to raise awareness of the value of nursing, to show the reality of modern nursing, and to make the case for support and greater investment in the nursing workforce. “What’s happening now in response to the Coronavirus is the most powerful practical demonstration of nursing in action,” said Catton.

Frieda Paton is a registered nurse with a Master’s degree in nursing education. Her passion for nursing education, nursing issues and advocacy for the profession were ignited while she worked as an education officer, and later editor, at a national nurses’ association. This passion, together with interest in health and wellness education since her student days, stayed with her throughout her further career as a nurse educator and occupational health nurse. Having reached retirement age, she continues to contribute to the profession as a full-time freelance writer. In the news and feature articles she writes for Nurseslabs, she hopes to inspire nursing students and nurses on the job to reflect on the trends and issues that affect their profession and communities - and play their part in advocacy wherever they find themselves.

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