Following the second countrywide lockdown, much of what will happen in the coming months remains unclear, but one thing's for certain - there are many lessons to be learned from the global COVID-19 pandemic that could be valuable for subsequent public health crises, and perhaps things that could help you in your nurse job moving forward, or that may even change the future of nursing forever.
Whilst there has been a huge amount of press coverage and information about the majority of the UK population, it’s becoming clearer that overall many marginalised groups have been under-represented, and unsupported during the outbreak. Learning from COVID-19, there may be an opportunity to make positive changes to reduce social, ethnic and economic inequalities. For the most part, excluded groups are the most vulnerable including the elderly, homeless people, prisoners and migrants. We’ll explore the impact of health inclusion, how this may impact the role of a nurse, and look at some key areas of potential improvement. Let us know what you think via our social media channels.
Language barriers and communication
The communication of accurate health information is vital when it comes to reducing the spread of the virus, and keeping the country informed. The healthcare sector can harness the power of its cultural diversity to improve communication with non-English speaking patients and communities. Culturally sensitive care can be highly beneficial during this time. Working closely with community institutions and religion groups could improve outbreak control, promoting the correct practices and reducing any stigma or fear that may arise.
Additionally, the requirements to wear masks in the majority of settings has led to a new challenge - communication for hard of hearing or deaf patients who are no longer able to read lips and facial expressions. Accurate healthcare information must be available for a variety of specific communication needs. Nurses can play a vital role in ensuring that these communication needs are met. It is imperative that public health messaging is accessible, understandable and inclusive - reflecting the diversity of the nation.
COVID-19: Fake News and Misinformation
The spread of “fake news” and misinformation has had devastating effects on the UK, and has created speculation around the cause, spread and even validity of the virus. The NHS has worked closely with Facebook, Twitter, Google and Instagram to help reduce the spread of dangerous or irresponsible information. However, with many individuals acquiring misinformation from other sources, typically word of mouth - the need for the healthcare services to be working within communities and local groups has never been greater, to infiltrate the source and build credibility.
Ensuring that healthcare messaging against “fake news” is accessible and reaches those communities that may not have access to the internet perhaps, is paramount in order to stamp out this dangerous trend. Spreading evidence based information across all channels of communication, such as online, newspapers, leaflets and out-of-home advertising, could reduce the impact of harmless misinformation. By providing nurses with easy-to-understanding information against “fake news”, they can act as another line of defence to prevent the spread of such misinformation.
Nursing jobs and patient advocacy
As patient advocates, nurses play a very important role in improving health inclusivity. Investing in the nursing workforce so that nurses have the knowledge and resources to protect against healthcare inequalities amongst vulnerable people, and education on how to identify these groups, is key to making our healthcare as inclusive as possible.
Whilst technology is certainly changing the face of healthcare as we know it, some groups such as elderly people, who are among the most vulnerable, may have difficulty using online services, following certain instructions and ultimately not receiving the information or care they require. This is where nurses can play a key role in improving health literacy with their patients and work as advocates to ensure the necessary information is communicated in the correct way. Nurses can identify required forms of communication such as large print formats, braille and culturally sensitive translations.
Information and mitigation strategies must take into account the most vulnerable groups across the country, offering a response that is inclusive to all. Nurses have been at the forefront of the global pandemic, working tirelessly to care for our nation, but the future of nursing may change forever in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The nursing workforce must be appropriately trained in infectious disease management and health protection, as well as being supported during their work. By investing in the future of nursing, we could drastically improve the way nurses can help during a pandemic, allowing nurses to better care for the community and also protect themselves.