As cases of COVID-19 continue to increase across the globe, the deficit of healthcare workers has become glaringly apparent. Hospitals and clinics not only lack personal protective equipment and available beds, but many are struggling to adequately staff nurses and physicians. Many hospitals have begun doubling the number of patients in each room and, in certain hotspot regions, have jerry-rigged ventilators as to accommodate two patients. In these areas, officials have begun tapping into unique resources in an attempt to bolster their healthcare workforce. Nursing and medical students have been called upon to graduate early and begin their on-the-job training immediately; additionally, retired nurses and physicians have also been asked to join the fight against COVID-19.
How Can I Help?
During this critical point in our fight against COVID-19, healthcare workers of any kind can be of assistance in some way or another. Respiratory therapists, critical care doctors and nurses familiar with operating ventilators are in greatest demand, especially in areas that are experiencing a drastic surge in the number of COVID cases. If you are a retired nurse or healthcare professional looking to join the fight against COVID-19, here are a few ways you can help.
Direct Patient Care – The most obvious way retired nurses can help is by re-entering the world of patient care. Depending on your credentials, you may be best qualified to assist in caring for COVID positive patients, especially if you have experience with ICU level care or knowledge of ventilator settings. While coronavirus may be making headlines all around the globe, there are still patients who require care and treatment for things related to diabetes, kidney disease, lung problems, heart attacks, strokes, etc. Most hospitals and clinics are keeping their COVID positive patients separate from their non-COVID patients in order to avoid possible in-hospital transmission. When contacting local hospitals, be upfront about whether or not you’d like to work with COVID patients.
Training New Hires – For those who are not able to engage in direct patient care, training new nurses can be a great way to put your skills to use. Nursing students across the nation have finished their training early in order to join the fight against COVID-19. As such, these new nurses will need orientation and on-the-job training before they are able to care for patients. Show them the ropes and direct them in learning the basic procedures and protocols they’ll need to know.
Providing Supportive Services – Another way to help during these difficult times is to help fellow nurses and healthcare staff with supportive services. This can include charting, placing orders, stocking supplies, submitting paperwork, making phone calls, running triage, etc. This method of support is particularly useful for those who have been out-of-practice for several years, but still wish to utilize their knowledge to aid those working on the frontlines.
Concerns About Retirees Rejoining the Fight
The main concern regarding retirees entering practice once again is their age. While COVID-19 has been positively identified in people of all ages, older adults are still at higher risk of contracting the virus and suffering adverse outcomes. This is especially true for those who suffer from comorbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, chronic lung disease, etc. Individuals should take into consideration their age and health prior to committing to returning to patient care.
A secondary concern for those coming out of retirement is whether or not their medical knowledge is up to par. For those who have been out of practice for two to three years, detrimental gaps in knowledge could be present and those who have been retired longer than three years almost surely are not fully up-to-date on the practices and procedures now utilized.
The Logistics of Returning
For those who have not been retired long, your license may not have expired yet. If this is the case, rejoining the workforce becomes a much easier process. During this time of crisis, many of the logistical hurdles involved in licensure have been smoothed over in an attempt to bolster the work-force. Though requirements vary by state, special regulations have been put in place that include the suspension of licensing laws, temporary and emergency licensures and lesser requirements for volunteers, especially those in healthcare. Read more about the licensing requirements in your state by going here.
If you are a retired nurse or healthcare professional who is looking for ways to help during this global pandemic, there are a multitude of ways to do so. During these unprecedented times, your knowledge and skillset can help patients win the battle against COVID-19. Whether you chose to dive right back in to direct patient care or simply provide supportive services, know that you are helping in ways that many of us cannot and we are truly grateful.