As health care professionals care for patients with COVID-19, taking measures to prevent the spread of the virus, we must not lose sight of maintaining the human connection. The practice was so commonplace before has changed due to COVID-19. Nurses are used to wearing gowns, gloves, masks, and face shields however challenges have arisen. Recognizing the significant principles of infection prevention have on caring for patients with COVID-19 and prevention of further spread, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been required for all health care professionals. With the health care team garbed, communication can be difficult, such as the inability to identify clinicians or difficulty understanding conversation through the mask.
Nurses are often wearing at least 2 pairs of gloves with no skin-to-skin contact, so a soft pat or small squeeze can be comforting. Fully garbed, with only their eyes visible, some clinicians are placing pictures of themselves on their gowns in hopes to make the encounter more personal. Limiting the number of times one enters a patient’s room is a strategy to minimize the spread of the virus, however, an unintended consequence is the isolation a patient may experience being alone. Patient care procedures, such as dressing changes, maybe time-intensive which provides the opportunity to talk with these patients, something they may be missing – just having a conversation.
Visitor policies for hospitalized patients have varied, but for a time, patients weren’t allowed any visitors, so members of their health care team were the only ones they could see in person. While obtaining informed consent nurses have used their cellphones or iPads so that patients could talk with the family.
We’ve heard several stories of nurses who were present when their patient died without family with them. These nurses were there when others couldn’t be, a comfort that families have expressed appreciation for.
The human connection, whether it’s placing a warm hand on a patient’s arm or making meaningful eye connection, goes a long way in easing fears and providing comfort. The pandemic has shined a light on the impact nurses have on patient care, remember however, this is what nurses do daily.