Nurses on the front line against coronavirus

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is ramping up its efforts to support nurses around the world responding to the deadly coronavirus outbreak and has welcomed new mental health and psychosocial support guidelines set to be issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) for people affected by the virus and staff caring for them.

ICN said it continues to remain in close contact with WHO as it offers support to its 130-member National Nursing Associations (NNAs) grappling with the evolving outbreak, which is expected to be declared a global pandemic within days.

According to WHO, while the spread of the coronavirus has been largely contained in China, worrying outbreaks continue to emerge in several countries, including South Korea, Italy and Iran.

ICN is offering support to its associations within these countries and closely monitoring the spread of the virus.

It welcomed the impending release of new guidance on mental health and psychosocial support for people affected by the virus and staff caring for them from WHO, noting that while stress and anxiety are a normal reaction during a crisis situation, support for those burdened with providing care is crucial.

Many nurses will be working long, stressful shifts, and be exposed to a great deal of human suffering, ICN said, meaning their mental wellbeing is imperative to enable them to provide the highest quality care possible.

As the coronavirus evolves, one of ICN’s biggest concerns remains the availability of personal protective equipment for nurses working in close contact with confirmed cases.

It has received assurances from WHO that more equipment is being produced and distributed to affected areas and ICN will continue to monitor the situation to ensure nurses are not placed at risk while on the job.

ICN CEO Howard Catton said the federation would continue to make sure nurses have a voice during the crisis.

“We often hear about nurses being on the front line of healthcare but in the fight against this new deadly virus, nurses are the front line of defence,” he said.

“Many nurses in affected areas will now be tired from their long stressful shifts, so we are calling on employers to ensure that they get adequate breaks during and between their shifts so that they can continue to carry out compassionate and courageous duty.”

ICN President Annette Kennedy said the response from nurses around the world in wake of the coronavirus was typical of the profession.

“The pictures we have seen of exhausted nurses shows how they are putting their patients’ needs before their own,” she said.

“It’s always humbling to see how our colleagues step forward when they are needed, even though they may be exposing themselves to dangers at work.

“I want to remind all nurses about looking after themselves and the importance of teaching their patients and colleagues about good infection control. We all need to take care of ourselves if there is any chance that we could be at risk of contracting this dangerous infection.”

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