When healthcare systems and institutions are faced with a healthcare crisis or outbreak such as the COVID-19 pandemic, weaknesses and areas requiring improvement in these systems are often revealed. As a result, new evidence-based practice (EBP) learning opportunities surface that are important for nursing leaders and nurse researchers to explore.
Northern Kentucky University’s Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Executive Leadership Concentration online degree program prepares nurses to understand the theory and research behind EBP and know how to implement it to improve patient outcomes.
The COVID-19 pandemic reveals a number of new EBP opportunities for nursing leaders to explore in the areas of:
- Communication during a healthcare crisis
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Patient care and treatment
- Patient and family education
How Can Healthcare Communication Be Improved During a Crisis?
The COVID-19 outbreak highlights how critical it is to be able to communicate key information to healthcare personnel and the general population quickly during a public health crisis.
Current technology such as the internet, smartphones and various apps make healthcare information easily accessible. However, it is important to know where to go online to find accurate, trustworthy information.
During a health crisis or outbreak, incorrect information and misinformation often confuses the public about what they need to do to protect themselves and their families. Nursing leaders and researchers have an opportunity to study what communication processes worked well with the public during the COVID-19 pandemic and what areas still need improvement. Using this information, nursing leaders can then make recommendations for improving these communications in the future.
How Can Hospitals Ensure Personal Protective Equipment Is Available?
Interestingly, the use of reusable masks and respirators is not common in healthcare, although this equipment exists and is used in other industries. The development and use of reusable masks for healthcare providers is another important area of research that warrants exploring in EBP. Having effective reusable masks and respirators would help ensure a ready supply during a crisis and could potentially reduce costs and waste associated with single-use masks.
Faced with the possibility of running out of masks in healthcare crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses are used to coming up with innovative solutions. The use of washable cloth masks when and if the supply of respirator and surgical masks becomes depleted is a potential solution for droplet-borne respiratory infections and warrants some research following the pandemic.
Members of the general population have also been using various types of cloth masks to protect themselves following the CDC’s recommendations. While the effectiveness of cloth masks comes under question, this concept holds the potential for further research and exploration to evaluate its merit for EBP in healthcare.
How Can Patient Care and Treatment Be Improved?
Non-pharmacological approaches are being incorporated into EBP nursing care with increasing frequency. For example, nurses in hospitals are using essential oils to treat conditions such as nausea, insomnia and anxiety. The use of certain foods and essential oils may also be effective in preventing and possibly even treating certain infections.
For example, research shows that some essential oils — completely harmless for most patients — have strong antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties when aerosolized or applied topically. However, nurse leaders and researchers need to seek out this evidence-based information and then work to distribute it so it becomes an accepted part of EBP for nurses and healthcare delivery.
What Patient and Family Teaching Needs to Be Done?
Another way nurses assist in disease prevention is through patient, family and public health education. Once new EBP interventions have been identified, nurses have an important and ongoing role to play in teaching patients, families and the public:
- How they work
- Why they are effective
- What potential contraindications or drug interactions exist
- How to use these interventions safely and effectively
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many new EBP opportunities for nursing leaders to explore. Areas such as communication during a healthcare crisis, PPE, patient care and treatment, and patient and family education are just a few EBP-related opportunities for nursing leaders to consider. Doing so will help nurses and healthcare systems be better prepared for healthcare crises in the future.