How are Nurses Coping with Insufficient Resources During the Pandemic?

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In hospitals across the country, nurses and other health care professionals have been working around the clock to care for patients who tested positive for COVID-19. In areas that have been particularly affected, emergency rooms are at capacity, which means that nurses are often physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted from treating patients. To make matters worse, nurses are reporting a significant shortage of resources necessary to treat patients and protect themselves from exposure. According to a study conducted by Purdue University, this has caused nurses to experience insufficient resource trauma. Nurses who are suffering from this, or any other type of work-related trauma, may be eligible to collect Workers’ Compensation benefits.

What is Insufficient Resource Trauma?

According to a professor at the Purdue School of Nursing, insufficient resource trauma occurs when a nurse or health care professional does not have sufficient staff, supplies, knowledge, or access to other professionals to fulfill his or her ethical or professional responsibilities. This puts the psychological well-being of health care workers at risk. Although nurses have been dealing with equipment shortages long before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that the Coronavirus will cause enough serious illnesses to overwhelm the health care system. Unless the issue is addressed and appropriate resources become available, more nurses may suffer from this type of trauma.

What are the Highlights of the Study?

During the past several months, nurses and other health care professionals reported that the lack of masks, gloves, gowns, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) has made their job particularly challenging. To get a better understanding of how these shortages are affecting their physical and mental health, researchers used an online questionnaire to obtain responses from nurses. According to the professor at Purdue, a total of 1,478 surveys were completed. In response to a request for additional comments about on-the-job trauma related to insufficient resources during the pandemic, 372 registered nurses licensed in the state of Indiana provided detailed written responses. Many nurses indicated that they are still recovering from the traumatic events. The following are examples of occupational and safety issues that nurses experienced on a regular basis:

  • Assault from patients
  • Watching patients die as a result of medical errors
  • Pressure to rush through tasks to complete them
  • Forced to go without ample food and hydration during long shifts

According to the nurses who participated in the survey, these issues were traumatizing and caused them to suffer a range of physical and emotional experiences, including the following:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Grief
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Burnout
  • Exhaustion
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Unhealthy diets
  • Substance abuse

When reviewing comments, the professor found that nurses were in the process of recovering from the traumatic experiences. She also noted that there were nurses whose employers ordered them to treat COVID-19 patients, even if the appropriate PPE was not available. This qualifies as a traumatizing experience because it puts the nurse and patient in danger. It is imperative to provide nurses and other health care professionals with the resources they need to do their jobs, as well as develop an effective organizational policy and oversight committee.

What are the Most Common Equipment Shortages?

A Washington Post-Ipsos poll found that PPE shortages were quite common. In fact, the poll found that 66 percent of health care workers said there were not enough N95 respirator masks, 42 percent reported a shortage of gloves, and 36 percent reported a shortage of protective gowns and face shields. As a result, some nurses have decided to leave their job rather than treat patients without the appropriate equipment and resources. Researchers suggest that the psychological trauma that nurses experience could have a negative impact on nurse retention.

How Bad are the Equipment Shortages?

To put into perspective how dire the conditions are at certain hospitals, an experienced nurse at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center in Los Angeles quit after a 12-hour shift due to extremely poor working conditions. Those conditions included ill-fitting masks, poor sterilization techniques, and two COVID-19 patients who slipped through the screening process and exposed health care workers to the virus. This same nurse had a 21-year career in military medicine, so he was no stranger to extremely challenging work conditions and a shortage of medical supplies. Although leaving his job was not an easy decision, he said that dealing with an infectious disease, such as COVID-19, was more challenging since it was much harder to control, particularly when there was lack of equipment.

Another nurse who works at MedStar Washington Hospital Center said that she was working without an N95 mask, eye shields, and shoe covers. In addition to the lack of PPE, nurses are being singled out by supervisors for demanding a higher level of protection. Their jobs are being threatened, as is their personal safety. Unfortunately, according to a pediatric nurse from San Antonio, there is a disconnect between hospital administrators and health care workers who are in the trenches treating patients every day. She explained that if CEOs and other administrators were to take a walk through a crowded emergency room where sick patients were being treated for COVID-19, they would see the importance of these life-saving resources.

On a regular basis, nurses face a great deal of pressure to provide high-quality care with inadequate protection, and some are beginning to resist that pressure. Prior to the pandemic, nurses regularly faced personal safety dilemmas, and they saw patients suffer from their illness and health care interventions, also known as medically induced trauma. An example of this would be a COVID-19 patient who was placed on a ventilator. The pandemic has focused more attention on the mental health needs of nurses and other health care providers. Nursing organizations have responded to this issue, but until nurses are more appreciated and valued for their work, the solutions necessary to avoid these traumas will stall, and nurses will continue to suffer the consequences.

Are Nurses Eligible for Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

When an employee suffers a work-related physical injury, such as a broken arm, collecting Workers’ Compensation benefits is a fairly straightforward process, particularly if there is no question that the injury occurred while the employee was performing his or her job. However, it can be more difficult to prove that a mental health issue is directly related to work. Insufficient resource trauma differs from other mental health injuries because it is directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as lack of resources and PPE. For a health care professional to obtain Workers’ Compensation benefits for insufficient resource trauma, he or she must meet the following requirements:

  • The health care worker must be diagnosed with a mental condition that is determined to be the cause of the disability.
  • The employee must have been employed by the health care facility for at least six months.
  • The health care workers must be able to prove that the mental health issue is a direct result of work conditions and not personal issues. The employer may confirm this by examining personal family issues, financial history, drug or alcohol abuse, and if the employee has a history of mental health issues.

Depending on the severity of the trauma and the impact it has on the health care worker’s ability to perform his or her job, he or she may be eligible to collect the following benefits for insufficient resource trauma:

  • Compensation for lost wages
  • Medical expenses associated with the mental health condition
  • Job retraining
  • Temporary or permanent disability benefits

Obtaining Workers’ Compensation benefits for mental health issues caused by trauma can be a complex process. An experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer understands the unique challenges that health care providers face and the impact it leaves on their mental health.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Secure Maximum Compensation for Nurses Suffering from Mental Trauma 

If you or a loved one works as a nurse, and the lack of resources such as masks, face shields, and gloves is having a significant impact on your personal safety, contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. You are entitled to a safe work environment, particularly during the pandemic when you are at an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. We will thoroughly review the details of your case and work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online. Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.