Will COVID-19 Get Nurses the Recognition They Deserve?

Nurses are much more than “doctors’ helpers,” and now the world is starting to see that.

For years, nurses have been stigmatized as being “doctors’ helpers.” But if anything is breaking down that misconception, it’s the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic — which happens to fall during the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

“I would really like to get rid of that [stigma] and have people understand that doctors and nurses work together. Health care happens because we work together; doctors are our colleagues and we are their colleagues,” said Theresa Brown, RN.

Brown is a former oncology nurse, professor of nursing, author, and cancer survivor. She created a petition to have a nurse on president-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 taskforce, which has gotten over 6,000 signatures to-date.

But Brown also knows of the importance of having nurses’ voices heard on a smaller level, too, such as in every individual clinic. She said that at many institutions, nurses are excluded from morning rounds, where treatment decisions — that often must be carried out by the nurse – are made.

“The nurse is the one with their eyes on the patient 24/7, watching the patient, and they have things to tell the medical team,” she said, explaining that patients may share with nurses when they are anxious about a test result or are experiencing pain. “So the person who is seeing the patient, [has] the most contact with them, and is best acquainted with them is somehow left out of the conversation with the doctors. That doesn’t make any sense.”

However, since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, both the public and the media have started to put more emphasis on the important and lifesaving work that nurses do. From personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages to long hours and burnout, this year may be a driving force in breaking down nursing stigmas.

“I think nurses are getting the recognition that we deserve,” Brown said. “And now I want to build on that on a political level.”

Read more: Nurses’ Expertise Is Essential for Health Policy Decision Making

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