How can nurses tackle the COVID-19 outbreak

Posted on March 2, 2020

COVID-19 (a.k.a. coronaviruses) are a group of viruses with the potential of being lethal. As it is a viral infection, antibiotics are of no use and regular medicines against flu do not work either. The severity of this virus does not reside only on its lack of treatment and symptoms, but also to the ease with which it is transmitted from one person to another – by air, through coughing and sneezing.  For further information, the Johns Hopkins University’s (JHU) Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) has built (and is regularly updating) an online dashboard that tracks the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.

As the World Health Organisation (WHO) urges China, countries and citizens to take action; and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC, an agency of the EU) discusses on how to be prepared if the outbreak reaches Europe, the EFN would like to remind all international and healthcare stakeholders the importance of nurses in our healthcare systems, always at the frontline and 24/7 at the bedside with the patient, and all they can and will do to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.  In the meanwhile, the WHO will continue providing all necessary technical and operational support to respond to this epidemic, collaborating with partners such as the EFN, and building up a strategy that allows for the advancement of research and scientific developments.

The European Commission (EC) organises a webinar on this topic too, in the presence of the EFN. It reminded stakeholders that despite having 43 cases of infected patients in 9 European countries, there is no reason to alarm the population. The risk of an outbreak within the EU is extremely low. Moreover, the EC welcomes all the measures that China has taken to manage the crisis – not only aiming at protecting itself but also at protecting the spread of the virus towards the rest of the world.

There are many actions that the nursing workforce can take not only to prevent themselves from getting the virus but also to prevent its spread among healthcare settings and citizens. Nurses should wash their hands often, particularly after every interaction with patients, cover their nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing and thoroughly cook meat and eggs. All of these can be safely recommended to their patients and citizens too. The latter should also avoid contact with unprotected animals whether wild or at farms.

The EFN strongly advocates for the nursing workforce, which is tackling other public health issues such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR), quality and safety (Q&S) and patient safety (PS).