Professional Development Nurses Respond to the COVID-19 Crisis

By Julie Miller, BSN, RN, CCRN-K Mar 26, 2020

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All hands on deck! Nurses around the world are being called on and challenged in new and unexpected ways as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I’m seeing my professional development colleagues implement just-in-time, essential education for nurses unfamiliar with ICU patient care in preparation for anticipated shortages of critical care nurses. For my part, I’ve gathered valuable ideas for minimizing and addressing staffing challenges from listserv discussions and webinars. Please consider how you might adapt these ideas for your own environment and individual needs.

Surge Staffing Webinar

In a recent webinar hosted by the Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD), several nursing professional development specialists addressed the issue of surge staffing and the importance of preparing for a surge. The specialists shared their surge staffing plans and provided tips for orientation and education. The plans call for nurses who have not provided inpatient care or worked in the emergency department in the last six months to receive surge plan orientation, including a self-study skills lab plus one 8- to 12-hour shift with a preceptor. The preceptor shift validates fundamental nursing skills such as assessments, medication or blood administration, dressing changes, assisting with mobility and EHR documentation.

Webinar presenters also emphasized that nurses who assist in surge staffing are not expected to take a full patient load, but should arrive ready to share the skills they do offer with the charge nurse.

Online Discussions

My professional development colleagues are generously sharing their staffing and safety insights and experiences online. They’re seeing hospitals hold live orientation classes that implement specific requirements and recommendations for infection prevention to ensure staff safety. Some hospitals are using self-study skills labs and teleconferencing. Here are some of the top tips I’ve seen for providing live or virtual education in today’s work environment:

  • Provide enough space in live classes for working at least 6 feet apart, and direct movement to minimize crossing paths ‒ or use audiovisual feeds for separate rooms.
  • Offer hand-hygiene supplies and cleaning instructions at skills stations.
  • Transition point-of-care testing and restraints to self-study and validate competency on the unit with a preceptor.
  • Establish and communicate infection prevention standards for in-person skills labs.
  • Use technology such as teleconferencing or video recordings to support orientation efforts.
  • Continue to blend online learning with experiential learning through simulation, skills labs and precepted practice.
  • Set up a self-study skills lab for validating fundamental skills for surge staffing.
  • Use videos for demonstration and self-validated learning confirmation, trusting that healthcare professionals will do the right thing.

Consider getting involved in online discussions yourself ‒ ANPD hosts a discussion group that is now open to nonmembers during this crisis. To participate, simply create an account, navigate to the discussion forum, accept the terms and select the COVID-19 Response/Preparation thread.

One nurse from Washington state has shared a number of suggestions with this ANPD community based on her experience preparing nurses to treat patients with COVID-19. She observes that four principles stand out, which every progressive and critical care nurse can use to support surge staff assigned to their unit.

  • Focus on the strengths and skills surge nurses already have.
  • Have posters and tools available for “on-the-fly” skills reminders.
  • Be a positive role model and change agent by communicating effectively and collaboratively with surge staff in their new work environment.
  • Support nurses through the changes happening around them, so they can better manage their anxieties in unfamiliar territory.

Key AACN Resources

This week's highlighted AACN resources support nurses in professional development and management to effectively prepare nurses for surge staffing. AACN’s COVID-19 resources are free to all nurses during this crisis. Please share them with all of your colleagues and peers.

  • COVID-19 Pulmonary, ARDS and Ventilator Education
    This free online learning resource focuses on nurses who are new to the ICU or are unfamiliar with managing ICU patients. The program explores the most essential elements of these topics for preparing surge staff during this crisis. Based on input from our community, the mini-course was developed specially for this crisis using updated content from AACN’s standard-setting and award-winning orientation program, “Essentials of Critical Care Orientation.”
  • Support Ideas From the Frontline ‒ COVID-19
    This blog post from a Seattle nurse reveals how tough it is to deliver care during a surge of patients, and how staff can support each other.
  • AACN eLearning Community of Practice
    This discussion group provides a forum for nurses, preceptors and educators to share best practices, inspiration, tips and ideas, as well as a place to support each other. You’ll find several active discussions on best practices for caring for patients with COVID-19.
  • Nurses in Healthcare Management and Business Leaders (NIHMBL)
    This online group offers participants a platform for interacting and discussing leadership and management issues affecting acute and critical care.

That’s a wrap! Be sure to check out last week's blog post featuring webinar resources on proning and ventilator modes, as well as prevention of healthcare-acquired infection ‒ all of which are essential for nurses delivering care to patients with COVID-19. The thoughts and ideas you are sharing with us in our blog comments section show innovation and creativity ‒ keep them coming. Nurses always manage to meet our patients’ needs. We are #UnstoppableNurses.

What are your creative, flexible and innovative ideas for preparing staff to take on new skills quickly and effectively?