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Making nurses’ voices count

Last year when world health officials declared a global pandemic, the American Nurses Foundation committed to addressing the impact of COVID-19 on nurses and the nursing workforce. Recognizing that action first requires deeper understanding, the Foundation launched the Pulse on the Nation’s Nurses: COVID-19 Survey Series. 

Since May 2020, the Foundation conducted eight surveys focusing on core issues of mental health, financial impact, personal protective equipment (PPE), innovation, and vaccine development. Over 100,000 nurses from all 50 states and the District of Columbia shared insights into their practical concerns, their mental health and wellness, and their financial challenges.

“At the Foundation, we’ve been supporting and listening to our frontline caregivers long before the pandemic,” said Kate Judge, executive director of the Foundation. “While we wade through the phases of COVID-19 relief, recovery, and rebuilding, it’s critical to recognize that we’re also moving through corresponding phases of nurses’ personal experiences and needs. These surveys are giving nurses a voice to share their experiences and helping inform the Foundation’s programmatic and grant strategies.” 

The survey results reveal the myriad hardships nurses face beyond daily work challenges. In the most recent Mental Health and Wellness survey, more than half of the respondents disclosed feeling anxious and overwhelmed. One survey participant described a stark reality: “All of my colleagues in the ICU are completely burned out and drained. We see a large number of COVID-19 deaths in our unit and it’s very taxing to our mental health.”

This concern for nurses’ mental health was echoed by another nurse who said, “As a COVID ICU nurse since March, I worry about my mental health after things finally slow down. I hope that there is a real focus on assisting those of us who have worked the frontlines through this pandemic. I would love to see articles to help us process all of this loss, sadness, and uncertainty.”

The latest survey, One Year COVID-19 Impact Assessment, disclosed new vulnerabilities among nurses caused by deferred retirement investments, lost savings, and the end of student loan forbearance. For many frontline nurses, salary reductions and additional expenses such as childcare are affecting their financial security significantly. 

One nurse said, “Although my work hours did not change, my salary was cut 12.5%. I was still expected to provide my usual services, but not provided equal compensation.”

Another nurse shared her worry about caring for her children: “After receiving a nursing grant, I am doing better financially. However, I dread when school begins because I cannot continue to afford to have my children looked after while I’m at work.”

In addition to the surveys, nurses are sharing their pandemic stories and photos on anayearofthenurse.org. For example, Keri Furci, MSN, RN, AGACNP-BC, created a Wall of Courage with uplifting messages to boost staff morale and let them know they are not alone during this isolating time.

Well-being tools and resources have been developed to support nurses, including the Well-Being Initiative (nursingworld.org/thewellbeinginitiative) launched by the American Nurses Foundation in partnership with ANA, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, Emergency Nurses Association, and Association of periOperative Registered Nurses. 

As the needs of nurses evolve, the Foundation will continue conducting these pertinent surveys in 2021 to mobilize nurses’ voices around critical issues impacting them during this unprecedented health crisis and beyond.  

The Foundation’s survey series (nursingworld.org/covid-19-survey-series-results) is a national resource on the state of nursing for federal government agencies and health organizations. All the survey results are public and provide informative comparisons of the pandemic’s impact across age groups, race, professional role, and states.

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