COVID-19 ‘with us for the long term’: New Norms for Travel Nurses
By Debra Wood, RN, contributor
More than 200,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States and cases keep mounting, in some areas with no sign of abating, creating a new norm for travel nurses.
“Until an effective vaccine is used, it will slowly start to go away but not go away completely,” said Peter Katona, MD, an expert with the Infectious Diseases Society of America and a clinical professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles and an adjunct professor of public health at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
Many vaccine candidates are in clinical trials, some in Phase 3. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will evaluate potential vaccines for safety and efficacy before approving them for use in the United States.
Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on a Facebook Live session that the United States will not “compromise safety or scientific integrity” in approving a vaccine, which should be generally available during the second quarter or later of 2021.
“COVID-19 is not seasonal and will be with us for the long term,” added Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of From Fatigued to Fantastic! “It is one more thing we need to adapt to. Most people will not have severe disease.”
Yet COVID-19 can be prove fatal for older adults and people with underlying medical conditions. Staff and travel nurses will continue caring for patients with the most serious conditions in hospitals, while nurses working in clinics will likely care for outpatients with the disease and those in need of testing for the disease.
Katona said he was not surprised SARS-CoV-2 was still circulating, since this is a more virulent virus than the one that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002 and 2003.
“I think it has the potential of having more bumps,” Katona said. “It’s unpredictable.”
Coronavirus and new norms
Health care institutions have had to adapt. Many larger institution have established COVID-19 units, separate from other units, to help reduce the chance of transmission. Many hospitals are testing all admitted patients for COVID-19.
Nurses must wear personal protective equipment when caring for COVID-19 patients or possibly infected patients, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also recommends in outpatient settings physically distancing, screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms, closing waiting rooms and other common areas, practicing good hand hygiene, sanitizing exam rooms between patients, limiting nonpatient visitors, and screening staff members daily before work.
“They will have to be careful and at some point not as careful as things get much better,” Katona said.
Medical teams have learned how to better treat COVID-19 cases, and more people are surviving the disease. However, many continue having symptoms. They are considered “long-haulers.”
Post-viral fatigue syndrome can develop, which Teitelbaum said also occurred after coronavirus infections with SARS.
“About 55 percent of people still have symptoms eight to 10 weeks after the virus,” Teitelbaum said. “The evidence suggests 15 percent of people who have COVID [will develop] chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.”
“I see COVID being part of our environment,” Teitelbaum said.
Masks, social distancing when possible, and good hand hygiene remain important methods to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It’s a new norm for travel nurses and the rest of the country. Katona encouraged nurses to follow these recommendations when off duty.
Teitelbaum recommended taking vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin K and zinc.
“Those four nutrients play a massive role in terms of getting your immune system functioning better,” Teitelbaum said. “Stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep.”
At the end of September, The Lancet published a study, which found fewer than 10 percent of adults in the United States have developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.
“In time, as more people develop immunity, we will be able to come out of a lockdown for people not at high risk,” Teitelbaum said.
The American Nurses Association, American Medical Association and American Hospital Association recently released a joint statement encouraging everyone to wear a mask, wash their hands and practice social distancing.
“The only way to end this is if everyone pulls together,” Fauci said. “We will end it together and get back to our normal lives.”
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