Nursing and Covid19: For Our Promising Future

Nursing is a profession with high ethical standards and obligations, and nurses are the professional group that the public trusts most across the globe.  With these standards, obligations and public trust, nurses have been on the front line of our battles with pandemics throughout our recent human history. During this long-time global pandemic of COVID-19, individual countries have gone through their own unique pandemic situations.  Some countries such as South Korea and Taiwan have been praised about their prompt and effective management of the COVID-19 cases.  Others have witnessed drastically increasing numbers of COVID-19 positive cases and related deaths that were totally unexpected and unprepared. Regardless of their unique situations, nurses have been major players in the pandemic management.  Nurses have been the direct contacts and care-takers of the COVID-19 patients, and nurses have played the essential roles in the COVID-19 screening and vaccination efforts. With the sacrifice and efforts of nurses made during the pandemic, nursing has been highly recognized by the public. The value of nursing has become more important than ever before, and the applications for nursing school admissions have drastically increased this year. 

With all these changes in nursing profession brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing would certainly go through unexpected changes in the future. For instance, as we have already witnessed, there would be increasing usages of telehealth/telemedicine approaches, and we would see subsequent changes in care models and nursing workforce. With the positive changes in public images of nursing across the globe, there would be increasing interests in nursing profession, and we would see an increasing number of highly qualified applicants with diverse background for nursing schools.  We would subsequently see positive changes in nursing research and practice with the new generations of nurses from diverse background. Of course, with all these unexpected and positive changes, the importance of nursing profession in health care would also increase.

For these future changes with other possible pandemic situations, nursing needs to be prepared with the collected wisdom from our experience in the COVID-19 pandemic. First of all, we should be prepared with new nursing care models and plans for our future. For instance, adopting situation specific theories that could directly link nursing theory to research and practice would be one direction for precision nursing that would be essential for future nursing with increasing diversities and complexities within changing global contexts.  Second, nursing needs to be open and flexible for new technological innovation (e.g., new device, new communication medium) that would be necessary for our future. As we have seen during this pandemic, computer and communication technologies have been essential in adapting to the new lifestyle required by the pandemic. Third, it would be necessary to mentor the next generations of nurses in the competence of dealing with future possible pandemic situations. Despite an increasing need for nursing experts in communicable diseases, we have seen lack of our expertise and experience in dealing with the pandemic. Fourth, nursing needs to give its careful attention to gender stereotypes and professional roles as a women-dominated profession within patriarchal health care systems. We have frequently heard about gender and professional disparities that nurses have experienced during this pandemic. Finally, nursing needs to advocate for nursing priorities (e.g., nurses’ mental health, safety measures for nurses, etc.) in interdisciplinary health care systems including governmental and private agencies. We have frequently witnessed that nursing priorities tended to be left behind during this pandemic. Unless we claim to support our priorities, nobody would give attention to ours.  In conclusion, with all these preparation for future nursing, we will thrive and prosper despite any unexpected pandemics or disasters in the future.  Our future will be promising.

*Header image copyright: Bruno Lavi - IND2021 photo contest winner

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Eun-Ok Im, PhD, MPH, RN, CNS, FAAN

Senior Associate Dean for Research and Innovation, Professor &  Edith Folsom Honeycutt Endowed Chair, Emory University, President, Asian American Pacific Islander Nurses Association (AAPINA)