Applied Psychology

World Health Day 2020: The vital role of nurses & midwives

Apr 07, 2020 | By Signpost
World Health Day 2020: The vital role of nurses & midwives

World Health Day 2020 honors the nurses and midwives of the world, and especially their vital contribution to the fight against the coronavirus.

Article summary

  • Without nurses, there would be no response to the coronavirus.
  • Nurses deal with patients on an hour to hour basis, whether it be in intensive care units, maternity wards, psychiatric wards or emergency wards.
  • Nurses and midwives work bravely despite staff shortages caused by the pandemic, and deserve to be honoured for their vital contribution.

As COVID-19 prompts worldwide shutdowns in an effort to stave off the spread of the virus, members of the health services bravely hold the line against the relentless assault. We realise just how much we owe to the healthcare workers, who currently face the worst of what the virus has to offer as they struggle to deal with the increasing number of patients in need of critical care.

The UK has honoured their NHS with nation-wide applause, and now, World Health Day 2020 pays further tribute to the healthcare workers by honouring the nurses and midwives of the world. As the World Health Organisation website says:

“Quite simply, without nurses, there would be no response.”

World Health Day 2020: Recognising the importance of nursing staff

In most cases, the nurses are the ones who spend the most time with patients, caring for them on an hour-to-hour basis.

That means nurses need to be able to be able to quickly develop trusting relationships with patients, and mediate between patients and other healthcare staff. They need to be accustomed to providing a sympathetic ear, to patients who typically experience many anxieties and woes.

Nurses also have the responsibility of educating patients, and their caregivers if necessary, about healthy lifestyle choices.

Nurses don’t just provide care from the bedside. They may operate among the community as well as within a hospital ward, educating people on the benefits of preventative care.

Nurses in mental health

This discussion wouldn’t be complete without highlighting the vital role that nurses play in mental health. Psychiatric nurses are trained in assessing mental health, crisis intervention, administering psychotropic medication and patient assistance and work closely with patients to help them manage the problems that they face and ultimately live productive and fulfilling lives.

As with other nursing staff, mental health nurses need to be compassionate, and able to empathise with patients. They will typically work in clinical settings like psychiatric hospitals, that assist people with longer term conditions such as bipolar disorder,

addiction, substance abuse or eating disorders.

Mental health in the time of coronavirus

Mental health is an area that often gets overlooked during a crisis like this, yet it is such a vital part of treatment. There are the psychological repercussions of self-isolation to worry about; not to mention the mental health of healthcare workers, who are basically operating in a warzone.

For now, the healthcare workforce is caught up in dealing with the chaos of the coronavirus, but the mental health aspect will need to be addressed in time, as many workers will need help processing the trauma.

Italy, one of the epicentres of the outbreak, has already taken steps by launching a mental health service to deal with the lockdown. The service provides free emergency psychiatric treatment, via phone or online, for people struggling to deal with the trauma of self-isolation, job loss, and the fear of losing significant others.

Meanwhile, Israel has opened what they call the first coronavirus psychiatric ward, where they attempt to prepare nurses and other healthcare staff for the unique challenge of caring for psychiatric patients infected with coronavirus. Such patients are less likely to observe social distancing, and will be in medications that may interfere with the treatment of the virus.

Midwives: Nurses with a special role

World Health Day 2020 also honours midwives, who assist women during pregnancy. Their work includes forming a relationship with mothers, and providing support and guidance during the pregnancy process. During a pandemic that is so widespread, midwives have had to double their efforts to ensure that one of society’s most important acts; the delivery of the newborn; is able to continue, World Health Day 2020 recognises the vital contribution they make.

Joining the mental health workforce

If you’re interested in studying at SACAP and pursuing a career in mental health, so you can help South Africa’s healthcare workforce deal with the coming challenges, then enquire now.

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