Zeno's Global Health Managing Director Ame Wadler has spoken with Alice Benjamin, a critical care and emergency nurse discussing the current COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 7th of most years, many of us are planning our Spring holidays, thinking about planting our gardens and perhaps changing our wardrobes to fit the new season. But since 1948, April 7th is the day that the World Health Organization commemorates World Health Day, a moment to highlight a priority area of global health concern. In past years this day has focused on mental health, maternal and child care, and climate change. And many of us have noticed, for a moment. But this April 7th, the whole world is focused on health and the World Health Day organizers are using this moment – when they have our profound attention, to honor the contribution of nurses and midwives.
Now more than ever, it is critical to salute the vital role nurses are playing at the frontlines of COVID-19, putting their own health at risk to protect us. Simply put, the nurses I know are the epitome of fearless. I asked one of those fearless nurses, Alice Benjamin, APRN, MSN, ACSNS-BC, a critical care and emergency nurse, and familiar to many as Nurse Alice from her appearances on Dr. OZ, to share what she wants people to know about nurses and other healthcare workers at this time.
Ame Wadler, Zeno Managing Director, Global Health: Given World Health Day this year falls during this pandemic, what is the most critical issue for public health to be thinking about moving forward – what do we need to do to protect against future pandemics?
Nurse Alice Benjamin, APRN, MSN, ACSNS-BC: The most important thing right now is infection control. The SARS CoV2 virus which is causing the COVID-19 disease thrives on transmission to spread infection. There are some simple things that people can do to interrupt the transmission of that infection by: 1. washing your hands frequently; 2. staying home; 3. practicing social distancing; 4. using cough/sneezing etiquette (coughing/sneezing into your elbow); and 5. wearing a mask when you got out for necessary activities and cleaning commonly used services frequently with disinfecting products. This is just one important part of flattening the curve and things that everyday citizens can do to protect our nation from future pandemics. Researchers, healthcare providers, government, engineers, and educators are working together to make sure we have systems and infrastructure and treatments in place to combat this and future threats.
Ame: This year’s World Health Day puts a special focus on nurses and midwives, why do you think this focus is important?
Nurse Alice: Nurses are the heartbeat of healthcare. For the 18th year in a row, Americans rate the honesty and ethics of nurses highest among all professions. We are the largest segment of the healthcare workforce and are with patients 24/7/365. While all healthcare providers are important - there is no other healthcare professional who stays and cares with patients around the clock. Nurses and advanced practices nurses such as midwives, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and clinical nurse specialists can provide several levels of cost-effective care and that's what our nation needs to fix our healthcare system. Healthcare needs to be compassionate, safe and cost effective and that means more nurses.
Ame: What is the one thing you want people to understand about the role nurses play in protecting our health.
Nurse Alice: Nurses do more than give immunizations and we're not less than doctors. There are various levels of nursing practice and nurses are VERY capable of saving lives. And while most nurses work in the hospital, many others are primary care providers in clinics, in emergency/trauma medical services, in government, in schools, in home care, in prisons and several other environments delivering quality care to people around the world.
Ame: As a nurse, what do you most want to hear from our government officials – or the public – at this time?
Nurse Alice: I want to hear a united effort across the nation about stay home orders and everyone wearing masks to stop the spread of the virus. It’s critical that we are unified and doing the same things to prevent the spread of infection. I also want to hear that our healthcare providers and essential workers have adequate supplies to protect themselves so they can be well enough to provide care and prevent the spread of infection to others. And I'd like to hear/see the public take this seriously. There are still many people who are not abiding by social distancing.
A big thank you to Nurse Alice for taking time to share her thoughts – and for all she and all her colleagues do each day.