Nurses Suffer Heavy Toll from COVID-19

As COVID-19 deaths top 240,000 in the United States and 1,275,000 million worldwide, two recent reports highlight the grim toll that the pandemic continues to take on nurses across the globe.

An analysis from the International Council of Nurses (ICN) found that 1,500 nurses have died from COVID-19 as of October 31. What’s more, that number includes nurses from only 44 of the world’s 195 countries, and is thus an underestimate of nursing deaths, according to a press release from the ICN. The ICN projects that over 20,000 healthcare workers could have died from the virus so far.

“The fact that as many nurses have died during this pandemic as died during World War I is shocking,” Howard Catton, RN, ICN chief executive officer, said in the release. “Since May 2020 we have been calling for the standardized and systematic collection of data on healthcare worker infections and deaths, and the fact that is still not happening is a scandal.”

Nurses at High Risk

At the same time, a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) study found that of the U.S. healthcare providers hospitalized between March 1 and May 31, 2020 for COVID-19, nursing-related occupations (36.3%) represented the largest proportion.

An analysis of the MMWR study noted that nurses represented 27.8% of those hospitalized and certified nursing assistants represented 8.5%. It also reported that almost three-quarters of the hospitalized healthcare workers were female.

According to the authors, the data suggest that nurses face a comparatively high potential risk of contracting the coronavirus and developing COVID-19 likely “because of their frequent and close patient contact, leading to extended cumulative exposure time.”

Given that nursing makes up such a large percentage of the U.S. healthcare workforce “has implications for the capacity of the healthcare system, specifically nursing staff members, to respond to increases in COVID-19 cases in the community,” according to MMWR.

The research did not collect information on the degree, frequency and duration of patient contact, nor did it determine whether healthcare providers were exposed to coronavirus in the workplace or community.

“None of us are going to cope and our economies won’t recover if we don’t keep our healthcare workers and nurses working and able to look after all of us,” said ICN’s Catton.

This story was originally published by Daily Nurse, a trusted source for nursing news and information and a portal for the latest jobs, scholarships, and books from Springer Publishing Company.

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