Written exclusively for Las Vegas HEALS by Jennifer Vale

Learn More About the Impact of COVID-19 on Nurses in Nevada

According to a recent WalletHub study, Nevada is one of the best states for nurses — earning top scores in categories like “Highest Annual Nursing Salary” and “Lowest Competition.” And while this is great news, it doesn’t change the fact that Nevada nurses still face a myriad of challenges.

Last January, pandemic-related deaths for the month peaked at 1,132. That’s more than a quarter of the 4,278 COVID-19 deaths reported in Nevada since March 2020. With the pandemic still very much a reality in the Silver State, here are three of the most significant issues our nurses face today.

The Emotional Toll of the Pandemic

Of the many difficulties nurses experience these days, the most pressing would likely be the emotional toll today’s health crisis has caused. In a survey by the American Nurses Foundation, over 10,997 nurses reported that the pandemic has impacted their mental health and wellness in more ways than one. While 51% said they experienced feeling overwhelmed, 48% felt anxious, irritable, and unable to relax. Other negative emotions that were prevalent among nurses include sadness, anger, isolation and loneliness, depression, guilt, and numbness.

At the moment, there are no government-initiated programs that aim to support the mental wellbeing of nurses. But, there are a few that were spearheaded by different associations. There’s the National Well-Being Initiative for Nurses, which was launched last May and is a collection of resources intended to help nurses heal from trauma and build resilience. Trusted Health also introduced Just-in-Time Support for Frontline Nurses, a support hotline for distressed nursing professionals.

Las Vegas nurses have also pleaded with the public to avoid gatherings and unnecessary visits, highlighting how this can not only help save lives, but also ease the distress of local healthcare workers.

The Shortage of Nurses

Another factor that further aggravates the emotional toll nurses are feeling during these trying times is the nurse shortage. Inadequate staffing has been a huge problem since the turn of the century, but with the current crisis filling hospitals to the brim, it has become even more perilous. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that in order to close the gap and replace retirees, the country would need 1.1 million new nurses.

Currently, different organizations are doing what they can to alleviate the shortage. Coalitions like the Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow focus on curating advertising campaigns that will encourage the youth to enter the profession and shed some light on the shortage. Corporations such as Johnson & Johnson are also doing their part by working with The Honor Society of Nursing on the Campaign for Nursing’s Future, which aims to attract more people to work in hospitals and extended-care facilities.

Educational institutions, too, began expanding their programs online over the past few years to encourage more students to take up nursing, wherever they may be. And now that most schools have shifted to distance learning, nurses can earn their certifications and even advance their careers through online RN to BSN programs. These programs are often more affordable without sacrificing the quality of learning across clinical, research, and leadership skills with a practical focus. In this way, newer batches of nurses can be trained with industry expertise to replace retiring nurses and fill up gaps in staffing.

The Workplace Hazards

As the very professionals who are at the frontline of the outbreak response, nurses are exposed to a wide array of hazards that put them at risk of infection. The World Health Organization points out how these hazards include pathogen exposure, long working hours, stigma, and physical and psychological violence.

While the onus of keeping healthcare workers safe and protected is mainly on the government, there are many ways health institutions can pitch in. These include efforts to make staff safety an uncompromisable and fundamental value. Another way they can help is by establishing processes that make staff safety transparent and every safety incident a learning opportunity.

Regular folks can also help alleviate the hazards nurses face in simple ways. They can start by wearing masks, following social distancing rules, and staying informed to prevent the spread of misinformation.