Today we are in the midst of one of the largest epidemics that the modern world has seen. As we write this India has been under lockdown for the last 60 days. Covid19 has put healthcare back on the main agenda for most public policymakers. While doctors and hospitals being recognized in this fight, the real soldiers in this war are the nurses. In any healthcare set up, its the nurses who are in the trenches, fighting day in and day out against known and unknown elements. Some time ago we had written about how the nursing services were at the cusp of change. Today we focus on how the role of nurses evolves during pandemics.
Nurses today are leading from front. They are the managers at forefront at bedside of the patients, keeping them on the path to recovery. Therefore it is importatn that we keep nurses motivated and inspired to stay on with enthusiasm in the Covid Era. On this international Nurses Days, we spoke to Col Binu Sharma, Vice President for Nursing Services at Columbia Asia Hospital. Col Sharma entered the nursing profession almost 40 years ago in 1977. She has been in charge of nursing at Columbia Asia since 2007. Today her organization has more than 2000 nurses and technicians in hospitals across the country. Below are some excerpts from the interview
Healthcare India: Nurses are the backbone for our healthcare system, how does their day to day role change during epidemics?
Col Binu Sharma: Articulating the changes in the nurses’ role during a global health crisis is helpful for communicating a plan to decrease the spread of disease and for implementing improved policies, procedures, and supplies. The nurses are not only the backbone of the health care team but they are the most important link in the health care delivery system.
During epidemics, the nurses become the “role models “rather than merely playing various day to day roles. The role of the nurse changes to adapt to the needs of the patient, their families, the hospital, and the community. During such crises nurses take up leadership roles at the forefront like this time in the fight against Covid19. They not only add to the development of policies to fight epidemics or pandemics but they also prepare for, identify, respond to, and direct recovery efforts from global epidemics that require an informed, coordinated response.
Healthcare India: What kind of training is provided by the nursing colleges to handle these situations as part of the curriculum?
Col Binu Sharma: In the revised basic nursing curriculum the Indian Nursing Council has included 100 hours of theory & 160 hours of practical to teach budding nurses on the various aspects of epidemiology & standard treatment protocols. For community health practical the nurses are put in clinical areas in the remotest villages & they are introduced to nursing care services in resource limited setting and they are given ample opportunities to link theory to practice in these sort of situations.
In fact the entire nursing curriculum and training is about learning to face the most complex and adverse situation with positivity & humility.
Healthcare India: What measures and steps have you initiated in your career to help nurses deal with epidemics?
Col Binu Sharma: We have initiated many steps including
· Improved engagement and networking
· Providing job security and reassurance, Flexi hours, psychological counseling and support to relieve anxiety
· Encouraging fun activities, quiz and other relaxation measures
· Focus on their health screening, regular meals, hydration, power breaks, resting zones in hospital. Transport to pick up and drop
· Provided with digital platforms, webinars to connect for training, live demos and team communication
· Provided scope for continual training & development. Formulate revised SOPs based on protocols from various authorized national and international resources. Training on Infection control procedures, employee safety, and patient-related revised disease protocols
· Supporting with adequate resources, manpower, medical disposables. Ensuring quality and quantity of personal protective equipment and other safety attire
· Encouraging team spirit by listening to their needs, regularly talking to them, helping them, guiding & mentoring them and most importantly leading the way
Healthcare India: What are your recommendations that we are better prepared for the future?
Col Binu Sharma: No amount of preparedness can predict success or failure in the future but being prepared always helps us to develop a positive outlook.
- Factors like creating awareness among the community, development of infrastructure of the health care system especially in rural areas , educating the population at the rural sectors, providing safety & security to health care workers may help us deal with future occurrences of epidemics & pandemics in a much more coordinated manner.
- Keeping our nursing workforce well trained with mock drills on disaster preparedness
- Keeping database of ready nurses to be hired in case of such emergencies
- Developing mentors for taking higher responsibility
- Engaging and education society in some of the recommended measures of hand washing, social distancing, respiratory hygiene, sharing right information with hospitals are some of the regular improved measures.
It’s good to see nurses leading the fight, but as Col Sharma says in her interview, a lot of care and thought has to be given to keep the nurses encouraged and prepared to deal with the ever-changing complex scenario that has become Healthcare in India.