COVID-19: amid fear and anxiety, we must look after each other

An emergency nurse’s experience of coping with the constantly evolving coronavirus crisis

Coping with COVID-19 as an emergency nurse

Just when we thought emergency departments (EDs) could not become any busier, COVID-19 comes along.

While every ED will be different, the changes that have affected the department where I work will be familiar to most emergency nurses.  

Currently, there is some satisfaction that our workforce has been supplemented by staff who have worked in our ED before and patient attendances may be down slightly.

But, if you are anything like me, there is also the fear – fear that we will become infected or that we will infect our families; that our colleagues will become sick or that the stories we hear from other countries will become our stories.

Then, after a shift, you start to wonder whether that shortness of breath, headache or other vague symptom is anything to worry about. This is a question only you can answer, perhaps after a discussion with your manager.

There are a few key things that emergency nurses need to do during this pandemic. First, do your jobs to the best of your ability. Because of the numbers of patients, the severity of their illness and our sadly limited resources, the next two months are going to be very difficult and will test everyone's resilience.

We will need the emotional support of our colleagues, friends and family – and I suspect our colleagues will become as close as family.

The second thing, but equally important, is to trust that everyone is doing all they can to make the situation better. Due to clinical commitments I have not been able to attend all the meetings at my trust, and there have been many because of the ever-changing picture of the pandemic.

By Justin Walford, senior practice development nurse, emergency department, Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton

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This is an abridged version of the article  COVID-19: amid fear and anxiety, we must look after each other that was first published on Nursing Standard as part of the free COVID-19 resource centre, created to support all nurses and healthcare professionals during this challenging period as they care for coronavirus patients.

The COVID-19 resource centre includes evidence-based clinical articles and "how-to" guides, the latest news, policy updates and a selection of relevant RCNi Learning modules.

It is hoped that nurses and student nurses will share it with colleagues and across their networks to help healthcare professionals battle against COVID-19 and bring the outbreak under control.

Visit the Nursing Standard COVID-19 resource centre

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