American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) has launched Hear Us Out, a nationwide effort to report nurses' reality from the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and urge those who have yet to be vaccinated to reconsider.
In response to the surge of the delta variant, a dramatic increase in younger Americans dying and the Food and Drug Administration's first full approval of a COVID-19 vaccine, AACN is advocating on behalf of the acute and critical care nursing community, as the profession and healthcare systems are being pushed to a breaking point.
"We don't want to scare the public, yet we are obligated to paint an accurate picture of life and death with COVID-19 in an ICU," said Beth Wathen, AACN president. "COVID kills, and the death is a difficult, tragic and lonely one. By engaging in an honest dialogue, we hope to help Americans understand the consequences of what is now a preventable disease."
Hear Us Out mobilizes nurse voices and outlines the dangers of COVID-19 surges for the community at- large. The campaign will include videos of nurses sharing their experiences taking care of patients with COVID-19 and materials that guide those who have been vaccinated to engage in constructive conversations with family and friends who have yet to be vaccinated.
Media reports show that in regions with low vaccination rates, healthcare systems may be unable to provide care for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as well as those with cancer, heart attacks, strokes and other health emergencies. This challenge will only worsen until more people are vaccinated against COVID-19.
As the situation escalates, nurses are leaving hospital settings or the profession altogether in record numbers. The sustained and extreme demands of caring for unvaccinated, hospitalized patients are taking their toll.
A recent AACN survey of more than 6,000 acute and critical care nurses quantified the impact of the past 18 months on the profession:
- 92% of nurses surveyed said they believe the pandemic has depleted nurses at their hospitals and, as a result, their careers will be shorter than they intended
- 66% feel their experiences during the pandemic have caused them to consider leaving nursing
- 76% say that people who have yet to be vaccinated threaten nurses' physical and mental well-being
- 67% believe taking care of patients with COVID-19 puts their own families' health at risk
"Nurses leaving the profession will bring our healthcare system to its knees," said Amanda Bettencourt, AACN president-elect. "You or your mother, brother, child or dear friend may suffer alone without a nurse beside them providing care. This is the last thing we want to have happen. It is avoidable, and it is the public who can help take the pressure off our overwhelmed nurses at the bedside."
If this trend continues, the future of healthcare is at risk. The nursing shortage in the U.S. will intensify, having been an issue long before the pandemic. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected nearly 200,000 nurse openings each year through 2029, including retirements and workplace exits. Now, survey data indicates that more nurses than projected are likely to leave the profession due to their pandemic experience. Inadequate staffing will lead to additional challenges in the coming years, raising the risk of increased mortality and complications in hospitalized patients.
Visit HearUsOut.com for more information on AACN survey findings and how to become an ally to protect both the public and our nurses.