Pandemic Nursing is a new term that describes nursing care that is rushed, physically overwhelming, and emotionally draining and provided to an onslaught of critically ill patients.  There are numerable contributing factors and adverse results related to Pandemic Nursing.  I have witnessed firsthand in the halls of long-term care facilities and recognize the toll this environment is having on the nurses.  The frantic, adrenalin pumping reaction to the disaster of the day, coupled with total exhaustion.   Working in a Pandemic Nursing environment is a direct threat to patient safety.

Is your facility working under Pandemic Nursing conditions?  To assess the risk, answer these questions:

  1. Is the pace of work hectic?
  2. Is the station and records frequently disorganized?
  3. Have there been financial strains on the facility?
  4. Is there a shortage of staff?
  5. Has the nurse-to-patient ratios fluctuated higher?
  6. Has the level of care the patients require increased?
  7. Is the facility having difficulty recruiting and retaining staff?

Add to this list of struggles the increased daily workload of, continuous donning of PPE, increased discharges and emergencies, isolated and depressed patients and constant testing and swabbing.

Unfortunately, the results of practicing Pandemic Nursing are bad patient outcomes.  A recent article by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices reported an increase of serious increased medication errors coupled with a trend by nurses to try and hide their mistakes.  There seems to be an invasive culture of lack of transparency in facilities.  The author of the article reported that one nurse admitted that  “when a medication error happens in his hospital, there is usually gossip about the event, along with speculation regarding who was involved in the error given that many different nurses may have entered a patient’s room to respond to an alarm, hang an infusion, or reprogram a smart pump.”

Lack of reporting of medication errors can quickly destroy the proactive work that is a vital part of patient safety.  Managers and leaders must educate nursing staff and explain the value of reporting all errors.   Any fear of retribution, finger pointing and blaming each other should be addressed and discussed.  At the same time, leadership must listen to the nurses’ concerns and help prevent escalations.  Many nurses report that they just don’t have the time to stop working and make a report.

To access the complete article, click here: During the Pandemic, Aspire to Identify and Prevent Medication Errors