COVID-19 and Nurses’ Roles in Their Own Communities

Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC

Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC

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The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has been both a crisis and an opportunity for nurses, as well as the overarching healthcare and public health infrastructures, global economies, and general social engagement. During such an ongoing global event, no small part of the opportunity that nurses can seize is their ability to be a trusted voice, beginning quite close to home in their own communities, and beyond. 

The Nurse at Home

In terms of any health-related topic, nurses can leverage an outsized influence on their immediate friends, family, and neighbors. Whether they’re single and living in a Brooklyn apartment building, or married and ensconced in an over-55 community in Georgetown, Texas, a nurse is someone to whom many will turn for advice and expert opinion. 

Considering that Brooklyn apartment building, neighbors would very well know that there’s a nurse among them, and doubtless many would choose to turn to him or her for the purpose of distilling the true reality of COVID-19. And in the aforementioned Texan retirement village, a nurse – whether actively working, or already having traded in her stethoscope and scrubs for a golf cart and set of clubs – would also be a source of information. 

Of course, nurses are not capable of being specialists in everything, but they’re trained to read research with a critical eye, understand medical-speak, and otherwise unpack a firehose of information into a digestible trickle. 

Some nurses themselves may very well be in denial or have political or cultural affiliations that turn them against the preponderance of evidence that COVID-19 is real, but we can only hope that most would step up to the proverbial plate, do the right thing, and educate their friends, family, and neighbors according to real science. 

The Nurse in the Wider Community

Away from the putting green or chats in a shared Brooklyn basement laundry room, nurses can impact their wider communities in larger ways. A nurse might choose to do any of the following, as well as other activities not listed here: 

  • Write letters to the editor in support of the science behind the pandemic response
  • Respond to letters to the editor that advance spurious conspiracy theories, misleading news, and false science
  • Volunteer for testing clinics, screening centers, field hospitals, and nurse-staffed triage/informational phone banks
  • Staff information tables at grocery stores and other public places
  • Sign up for local disaster preparedness organizations (e.g.: the Medical Reserve Corps)
  • Place calls to local, regional, state, or even national call-in radio talk shows about COVID-19, and disaster response and preparedness
  • Use social media to engage the community, push back against conspiracies and pseudo-science, and educate the public
  • Tell friends, neighbors, and family that he or she is available to field questions from anyone needing evidence-based information
  • Call or email local and state government figures with opinion, analysis, and advice 
  • Network and collaborate with other local and regional healthcare providers
  • Contact local news agencies and offer to be a source for articles and stories related to the pandemic

Nurses Voices Matter

We all know that nurses are the most trusted professionals in the United States, and their central role in saving lives during this novel coronavirus pandemic has not gone unnoticed by government, media, and the public alike. 

Moving forward, nurses can use COVID-19 as an example of their utility and resourcefulness under duress, and they can enjoy the fact that so many people see them as trustworthy sources of information, education, and comfort in difficult times. 

Nurses’ voices matter, and there’s no question that their roles in communities nationwide can stretch from the micro (educating loved ones in their own homes) to the macro (speaking out, volunteering, and being a voice of reason in the storm). 

Where there’s a nurse, there’s opportunity for trust, education, and sanity. And since nurses are literally everywhere, we can rest assured that trust, education, and sanity are ours to have when we place ourselves in the hands of capable, knowledgeable, and compassionate nursing professionals.  

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