Greater than 600 nurses worldwide have died from COVID-19 in the course of the pandemic. This shouldn’t be a shock: we’re the biggest group of healthcare staff on the earth, devoted to stopping the unfold of coronavirus, and we’re additionally engaged in caring for many who are struggling.
However though we’re on the frontline of this disaster, nurses are too usually being not noted of responses to the pandemic.
Uniquely in danger
Within the UK and different international locations with excessive charges of coronavirus deaths, there are rising inequalities in well being outcomes for various earnings teams. In England and Wales, the mortality charges from COVID-19 in probably the most disadvantaged areas are greater than double the least disadvantaged.
Usually, the danger of unwell well being will increase for individuals who dwell on a low earnings. Widespread well being points that have an effect on these teams embody hypertension, coronary coronary heart illness, lung illness, sort 2 diabetes and weight problems. All of those put folks at greater danger of changing into sicker and dying from COVID-19. Dying charges are highest amongst folks from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
These communities are additionally disproportionately represented amongst nursing employees a few of whom live on the bottom wages.
Nurses working in hospitals, care houses and inside communities are sometimes put at larger danger from COVID-19 as a result of they haven’t been given satisfactory private protecting tools, or PPE.
A research of practically 100,000 well being staff within the UK and US discovered that individuals engaged on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic had been thrice extra more likely to check constructive for the illness than the final neighborhood. Well being staff from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background had been discovered to be 5 instances extra more likely to check constructive than white individuals who didn’t work in healthcare. Staff who reported a scarcity of satisfactory PPE of their healthcare establishments had been at larger danger nonetheless.
One other research by the UK’s Royal School of Nursing, in the meantime, discovered that greater than half of Black, Asian and minority ethnic respondents have felt stress to work with out the proper PPE in comparison with simply over a 3rd of different respondents. These teams had been additionally requested to reuse PPE extra ceaselessly than their white counterparts.
Denied a voice
It’s a painful irony that as nurses battle in opposition to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 is the World Well being Group’s 12 months of the Nurse and Midwife which was supposed to boost the profile and perceptions of nurses globally.
However the response to the pandemic within the UK has starkly proven that our experience and expertise as a career shouldn’t be being referred to as upon and our potential shouldn’t be recognised. We’re the most important work power for well being within the UK working in hospitals, care houses and neighborhood settings to look after these with COVID-19 and assist stop its unfold but we’ve no illustration on the official scientific advisory group (SAGE), which advises the federal government on its coronavirus response. Nor are we represented on the rival Impartial SAGE group.
Our position in coverage improvement and planning is negligible regardless of the invaluable insights our distinctive place in well being programs provides us. Our lack of illustration and reward implies that we’re additionally affected by the impacts of inequalities together with these we look after.
Kirsty O Connor/PA
Given the possibility, nurses may assist information coronavirus coverage in a lot of methods. First, by being a witness to the well being impacts of COVID-19 on our native communities and employees, recording and researching inequity of entry to providers. Second, we are able to advise on the way to present prevention and remedy assets to these most in danger. Lastly, we are able to set a constructive instance when it comes to equality of alternative, truthful working circumstances, safety from an infection and pay. This might begin with making certain equal provision of PPE for all employees.
Nurses are on the forefront of making an attempt to cut back present well being inequalities that are being made worse by COVID-19. We’re additionally victims of these inequalities – a feminised, racialised workforce coping with poor circumstances and missing a political voice. Care and prevention of illness aren’t perceived as being as vital as discovering a treatment or a vaccine, however within the world restoration from COVID-19, all these parts are equally important.
We now have already misplaced too many colleagues within the combat in opposition to this illness. It’s time our work is recognised and we’re given an official voice to assist us all get well from the coronavirus pandemic.