Face masks. Visitor restrictions. Testing. New PPE. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the landscape for all healthcare workers, including registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and certified nursing assistants (CNAs). Not only are internal policies at healthcare facilities changing on a daily basis, but those nurses who pick up PRN jobs close to home are also feeling changes in the way they deliver services. Keep reading as we take a look at the risk of COVID-19 faced by healthcare workers and highlight important statistics that you should know and give you professional tips on how to make it through the rest of 2020 and beyond.
Risks of Coronavirus for Healthcare Workers
From the beginning of the wave of COVID-19 flowing across our nation, the CDC has been responsible for all COVID-19 data and tracking. However, when it comes to data specific to the statistics of COVID-19 among healthcare workers, from clinicians to support workers, what is known, is incomplete. Perhaps in part because initially reporting parameters weren’t clearly defined and local and state health departments were rushing to organize avenues for reporting. Perhaps also in part because, the federal government stepped in and appointed COVID-19 tracking in hospitals to the Department of Health and Human Services, who in turn has contracted out the tracking to third party agencies. As a result, public access to the data has been limited and obscured.
CDC Healthcare Personnel Data is Incomplete
Regardless of the reasons for the incompleteness of the data, it is publicly acknowledged as incomplete. Indeed, according to the CDC the data they show for COVID 19 cases and death rates among healthcare personnel, they have included a bold disclaimer stating:
“Data were collected from 5,504,597 people, but healthcare personnel status was only available for 1,330,250 (24.17%) people. For the 171,799 cases of COVID-19 among healthcare personnel, death status was only available for 124,857 (72.68%).”
In accounting for only 24.17% of healthcare personnel, as of October 4, the CDC shows a confirmed case count of 171,799 and confirmed deaths of 739 among healthcare personnel. This data is updated daily.
National Nurses United Releases their Own Report
The largest nurses’ union in the united states, National Nurses United, released a report on September 28, calling out the federal and state governments of the nation for failure to be transparent about the effects COVID 19 is having on healthcare workers.
According to their own report, the NNU has confirmed 1,700 deaths among healthcare personnel. The report further indicates that only 16 states are routinely reporting COVID 19 data on their healthcare workers. The discrepancy is worrying as nationwide nurses continue to report limited access to PPE.
CDC Report Published in September
The CDC first published a report that analyzes characteristics of COVID-19-infected healthcare personnel in April. Since that report, the available data on COVID and healthcare workers has increased greatly. The newest report, “Update: Characteristics of Health Care Personnel with COVID-19 — United States, February 12–July 16, 2020” was published on September 25 and shares important data regarding what is known about COVID infections among healthcare personnel (HCP). State and local health departments submit their COVID data to the CDC on a voluntary basis. Furthermore, the fatality statistics in the above-referenced report by the CDC were comprised of submissions from only 22 jurisdictions. In spite of its limits of compiled information; the data gathered indicates, among other things, the following important information:
- 79% of infected HCP were female
- 57% of infected HCP were between the ages of 16-44
- 41 years was the median age among COVID infected HCP
- 92% of infected HCP were not hospitalized
- 56% of infected HCP did not have any of the ten underlying medical conditions specified
- 30% of infected HCP had an identified occupation as a nurse
- 38% of fatal cases were male
- 20% of fatal cases were Asian
- 32% of fatal cases were Black
- 92% of fatal cases among HCP had an underlying medical condition
- 62 years was the median age among the deaths
Points to Consider About Available Healthcare Personnel COVID Data
- Healthcare Personnel COVID data is submitted voluntarily.
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began requiring nursing home facilities to report HCP infection and fatality data. Because these facilities are now required to submit data, future data reports may show higher numbers among HCP working in these facilities when compared to other work settings.
- Analytical Reports usually don’t include data up to the date of publishing. For example, the CDC report published in September analyzes data through July 16.
Facilities Struggling with Staffing Shortages Send COVID-19 Staff Back to Work
Regardless of the data, one truth is becoming startlingly clear. Healthcare worker shortages in facilities, especially residential nursing homes who have long before the pandemic struggled with staffing solutions, have reached such a critical point that some facilities have called into work their staff workers who have been COVID infected.
Enough facilities have struggled with these issues that the CDC has released guidance and mitigation strategies. These strategies include a preference for additional hiring, creative scheduling, and post-pone elective time off (vacations, personal days, etc). It also includes guidance for COVID infected healthcare workers who are called back into work. They are:
- If not already done, allow HCP with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to perform job duties where they do not interact with others (e.g., patients or other HCP), such as in telemedicine services.
- Allow HCP with confirmed COVID-19 to provide direct care only for patients with confirmed COVID-19, preferably in a cohort setting.
- Allow HCP with confirmed COVID-19 to provide direct care for patients with suspected COVID-19.
- As a last resort, allow HCP with confirmed COVID-19 to provide direct care for patients without suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
Additionally, HCP who return to work under such conditions needs to be wary of spreading to their coworkers or other patients who are not confirmed with COVID. For that, the following Return to Work Practices and Restrictions is strongly urged.
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If you ever had any doubt about finding PRN work at facilities near you, knowing that some facilities are calling in their sick staff to cover staffing shortages should set you straight.
Facilities across the nation and those in the very city you live in, or near you, need your clinical skills. Join NursaTM today, create your digital professional portfolio, search for PRN shifts in facilities near you, and start working right away!
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