COVID-19 has brought about many changes throughout the past year. While we have all adjusted to these changes in our day-to-day lives, the healthcare industry has also had to quickly adapt.
According to Nurse.org, the coronavirus has changed nursing not only for those already working in the field but also for nursing students. While these changes can vary from state to state, we reached out to two of Herzing University’s clinical partners to ask how they’re experiencing the impact at their organizations.
Lori Hudson has been a family nurse practitioner (FNP) for 23 years and is the owner of Temple Medical Clinic in Villa Rica, Georgia. Tera Rudloff has a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) and is the director of business development at Dallas Behavioral Healthcare Hospital in Texas.
How has nursing changed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic?
Lori Hudson: In March, we had to stop seeing patients in person at my clinic so my business had to quickly figure out alternative ways to take care of our patients. My team did a lot of research on telehealth and started making phone calls to patients. In those first few weeks, we focused on high priority patients, which included those with diabetes, the elderly and those suffering from mental illnesses.
During telehealth sessions, we make sure to have the patient’s charts and current lab work on hand. We also ensure that patients have enough medications to get them through quarantine if they must self-isolate. We have to make a lot more phone calls than we used to, but telehealth has become a much more common practice across the industry and in my organization.
Tera Rudloff: Since the pandemic began, we started doing screenings ahead of patients coming into the facility, whereas before this wasn’t necessary. While our quality of care has not changed, I think our team looks at patients’ common symptoms differently than they had previously, trying to identify the true medical root of the issue. The purpose is multifaceted, helping the patient while keeping everyone safe.
What skills have become more important since the pandemic started?
Lori Hudson: The patient interview process has been the most important task for both nurses and patients. It has been a challenge doing assessments over the phone, which makes communication skills even more essential. It’s never been more important for us to make sure we’re asking the right questions, including many historical questions. We also have to reach out to a patient’s family members if the patient was an uncertain historian.
This same challenge applies internally to our hiring process. We have gotten more skilled and efficient at interviewing nurses over the phone.
Tera Rudloff: Having nurses who are detail-oriented has always been a key skill for our team. Being able to notice subtle changes in patients can help providers and caregivers quickly identify patient needs and make adjustments as necessary. Additionally, the need for caring and compassionate nurses hasn’t changed. As a behavioral healthcare facility, we must have staff who care about and can empathize with patients who have mental health challenges.
What is one of the most common struggles you have encountered?
Lori Hudson: This might come as a surprise, but having to use telehealth! It is also extremely difficult to get people to answer their phone when we call because sometimes people forget or just aren’t near their phones when we reach out to them.
Tera Rudloff: The most common struggle that we have encountered during this time is uncertainty, whether that be from staff or the patients themselves. While the nursing staff has been great at adapting to changes, it is definitely a skill! We have worked with our team to provide self-care techniques, build rapport and try to offer reassurance during times when things are unknown. Keeping everyone safe and doing our part to stop the spread has been imperative.
How do you think COVID-19 has impacted the nursing workforce?
Lori Hudson: Businesses might be more restrictive about hiring due to the pandemic, but new nurses and students should not be discouraged by this. I recommend they take their time, be resilient and just go for it! Even volunteering or interning at a practice while looking for a job is a good idea.
Tera Rudloff: COVID-19 has made recruitment in the mental health field even more difficult. Since there have been so many nursing demands with the pandemic, some needs in specific industries have been overshadowed. I think this will change, but we definitely need nurses who are passionate about mental health!
What is your advice for current nursing students who are looking to get into the field?
Lori Hudson: I strongly believe that nurse practitioners are as necessary as air! I always recommend gaining solid experience working in the field and then consider starting your own practice at some point, if that’s something you’re interested in.
Tera Rudloff: Your time as a student is the best time to identify where your passions lay. If you can, you should intern at multiple types of facilities and identify what you are passionate about. There are so many types of nursing for different agencies that need people who are passionate about the patients they serve.