Contributed by Col Binu Sharma, Senior Vice President- Nursing Services, Columbia Asia Hospitals
We are living in unprecedented times, as we have to step up our efforts to provide the most optimum, safe care to our patients during the global COVID-19 crisis. This year is significantly shining a light on the contribution of nurses to healthcare delivery, health systems and community. Around the world it has been a vital task more than ever to boost health care workforce capacity and further enhancement of the role of nurses and paramedic workers has never been more crucial.
With the world suffering the burden of COVID 19 pandemic, upskilling the nurses and paramedic workers has been the paramount aspect of health care delivery systems. The upskilling training programs are intended to balance community, patients and self-safety with the need to enable governments hospitals and nurses to do what is needed to respond to COVID-19.
Upskill training programs are designed to prepare nurses to perform work outside of their current role. It helps to create a larger pool of nurses who can be called upon to support in critical areas of care and in pandemic situations. It provides an opportunity and basis for the nurses to deal with a pandemic like COVID 19, regardless of prior experience in clinical support or patient care positions. It paves as a way forward to prepare nurses to serve patients confidently and safely. At only 1.7 nurses available per thousand population (WHO recommendation is 2.5 nurses per 1000 population), India has a crippling shortage of nurses, despite being the highest producer of trained nurses in the world. Hence, it is important that the current manpower is trained and specialized to handle critical care cases.
The upskill training programs will enable nurses already working in non-critical care areas to quickly and efficiently upskill to work in critical care areas. It also gives a major workforce boost with thousands of nurses undertaking additional training to combat coronavirus pandemic – developing new skills that will continue to be put to good use in hospitals into the future. By upskilling nurses to the required level, the health care organizations are comfortable in allowing more clinically qualified team members to deliver more complex care required during this extraordinary time, hence more patients benefit from having enough people to provide quality care in the areas that need it the most. By upskilling nurses before a surge of patients, health care organizations can avoid any gaps in patient care.
The upskilling training program may include classroom instructions, online instructions, written materials and on-the-job mentoring. With such ongoing trainings worldwide nurses already have begun working in new roles as part of teams directed by more-experienced colleagues. The upskilled nurses can help care for COVID-19 patients in ICUs and in other units affected by changes in staffing levels related to the pandemic. The upskilling training program provides many nurses the opportunity to keep serving humanitarian crisis like this much more effectively. The upskilling training program has increased camaraderie among nurses.
Critical care requires special skills and it takes around 2 to 3 years to a general nurse to acquire those skills in the normal hospital scenario. It is a skill that is acquired with hands-on training and additional study, so non-ICU nurses will most certainly face challenges not only in respects to the technical environment, but also the clinical complexities, the acuity of the critical care patients and additional caring of their own emotional and mental wellbeing. To bridge such gaps upskilling trainings are tailor made to add value to patient care because COVID 19 patients may have a rapid decline in their clinical condition. Such rapid changes can require patients to be quickly transferred to an ICU. In such situations the presence of upskilled nurses working can prevent veteran ICU nurses from becoming overwhelmed. Such trainings are cardinal to developing and boosting team spirit. In a crisis like this the team concept is the most important aspect in saving lives of the patients.
This upskill training programs will not only better prepare our health services during pandemic but will also ensure we have the skilled workforce to meet future health challenges and crisis. Nurses and paramedics workers all around the world are undertaking upskill training programs and the willingness of nurses to upskill and re-train during the coronavirus crisis is a reflection of their professionalism, compassion and dedication to the health and wellbeing of their patients and the community