Nurses: The Animating Force Driving Innovation During COVID
By Liliane de Vries
As the frontline of healthcare, nurses are the critical point of contact, treating patients with a range of symptoms — from acute to severe. This unique vantage point provides a pivotal insight into various stages of patient care and offers a bird’s-eye view into the challenges facing medicine at all levels. Equally as important, nurses act as the voice of patients, listening to their concerns and reshaping them into actionable strategies to improve the current state of healthcare.
With their unique perspectives, it’s no surprise that nurses are at the forefront of innovation during the pandemic, tackling today’s healthcare challenges with their profession’s signature ingenuity. Here are four of the countless examples of nurses driving innovation during COVID.
1. Virtual Rounding Tool
When the pandemic struck, one of the first crucial components of medical care, the family, was placed in the impossible position of staying home instead of at the hospital to reduce the spread of COVID to the community.
Understanding the need for families to stay involved in the healing process, a team of four RNs (Jordan Bope, Anne Pontillo, Kori Fenner, and Justin Kelly) implemented a virtual rounding tool that they had been workshopping since before the COVID pandemic. This flexible tool, “Real Talk Real Time”, is shaped by the feedback of both family and patients, allowing loved ones to video chat with nurses and doctors to bridge the distance and provide necessary comfort.
2. Code Cards
Highly contagious, COVID-19 poses a new risk to communication in healthcare, as something as simple as stepping into a room to relay critical information quickly evolved into a high-risk situation.
Following the initial code blue in her hospital’s COVID-19 ICU, Jessica Latham (RN and Critical Care Nurse Educator) realized that she needed to discover an alternate route to providing information without entering a patient’s room. Jessica speedily found a solution in the form of “code cards”, which are laminated messages that can be placed against the ICU glass and contain commonly coded medications and procedures.
3. SHARE Program
Increasing demands pressed by the pandemic has dried out supply, resulting in a global PPE desert that has stripped caregivers of their first line of defence, protection to treat patients. Health workers worldwide are now urgently seeking a path to equipment vital to patient care.
SONSIEL, a collective of nurses, innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders from across the globe, set out to and succeeded in forming the Strengthen Healthcare Ability to Respond to Emergencies (SHARE) program. SONSIEL board members, worked with their communities and local businesses to obtain and distribute 100,000 donations of PPE to those most in need within the US in the first 30 days of its creation.
At this moment, healthcare workers are overburdened on all fronts, and this certainly includes a lack of time to meaningfully share information and address patient concerns and questions. This is especially true for charitable clinics whose resources are typically stretched thin.
Breanna Lathrop (Chief Operating Officer and Family Nurse Practitioner) developed HelplineSOS, an automated phone system ran by a staff team and 20 volunteers who are mostly nurses. What makes this platform so unique and effective is that it can be implemented within hours and uses a clinic’s own phone number as a contact point to better serve the vulnerable population who are struggling to receive timely advice but do not require emergency care.
Every voice makes a difference
In times of crisis, necessity and creativity are the sparks that ignite innovation. And now more than ever, the delicate balance that nurses uphold between speaking for and treating patients must be recognized and supported to spur future developments in healthcare.