How the Pandemic Is Changing the Role of Nurses

NursingMay 29, 2020

No industry has been impacted more by COVID-19 than healthcare, putting tremendous demand on medical personnel. Nurses are working longer shifts to care for patients and, while the situation has been overwhelming, they are answering the call and meeting the new demands.

Heightened Focus on Safety 

In a pandemic, patients’ illnesses can pose a direct risk to nurses. With COVID-19, the disease can be passed through airborne droplets or direct contact with bodily fluids. While universal precautions are always in place and followed, COVID-19 is highly contagious. Nurses must ensure that the appropriate personal protective equipment is used at all times and good hygiene practices are followed. 

Limited Resources

The pandemic is taxing every type of healthcare resource. For example, hospitals are running out of important tools, such as beds, medical equipment, medications, food and space. One of the items in short supply is personal protective equipment. While normal protocol is to use a new mask with every patient, nurses must now reuse them for hours and even days at a time. In addition, with demands for more facilities to treat patients, temporary healthcare facilities are being set up in non-traditional spaces such as conference centers, schools and auditoriums. With these new locations, nurses must be able to transition to new settings quickly. 


Nurses often are needed in departments other than those in which they normally work. They are being asked to collaborate with new teams and cross-trained so they can help out when and where needed. They may also support facilities outside the hospital or even travel to other cities that are overwhelmed and need assistance. 


At times, nurses may take on assignments that temporarily separate them from their families. This can require temporary residence in nearby hotels or in co-living arrangements with colleagues to protect loved ones from unnecessary exposure. This can add stress for nurses who have to sacrifice their personal lifestyle for their professional commitment.

Patient Relationships

Nurses typically spend more time with patients than other members of a healthcare team. During this pandemic, they have played an even deeper role by providing patients with human contact during the lockdown. With visitors banned from many hospitals, patients are forced to communicate with their loved ones by phone or video. This applies to maternity, cardiac units, and other departments throughout the hospital, so nurses provide some of the only human interaction patients (even those who do not have the virus) will have during their hospital stay.  

The pandemic is putting an unprecedented demand on the healthcare system overall and on nurses, in particular. Nurses have always been heroic, but today they are on the front lines of a war on American health. They are addressing the new challenges, working together to help everyone get through the pandemic. Fortis is proud of our many nursing graduates who are now making a difference for so many people and their communities at large. Now more than ever, nurses deserve our continued respect and our thanks.