Nurses’ Hands is an international association for nurses. The organization is FREE to join. As we grow we will have advertisers to help defray the costs.
The idea for Nurses’ Hands was born several years ago as I looked at pictures of nurses in Mexico trying to care for patients in a hastily erected tent “hospital,” after the brick and mortar hospital collapsed in an earthquake. I wanted to find a way to support other nurses when natural or man-made disasters caused incredible challenges. Unfortunately, life got in the way and I never found the time to do more than talk about this.
This site was launched on April 6, 2020 as worldwide cases of COVID-19 was at 1,347,676 and deaths due to this global pandemic at 74,744 (JHU).
On April 6, 2020, there were only 364,567 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 10,841 Americans already dead (JHU). On March 24, 2022, the US reached a death toll of 1 million.
By April, unmet equipment needs in the U.S. sometimes meant that one ventilator might be used simultaneously for two patients, while other patients less likely to survive were provided end of life care, as there were not enough ventilators for all in need.
Tent field hospitals were being erected in major cities throughout the U. S. to create the extra beds that nurses needed to care for a massive influx of critically ill patients with COVID-19. Unfortunately, there was no magical way to create the volume of nurses needed to care for those patients as quickly as the structures were built.
In New York, New York where the situation in April was horrendous a nurse standing in front of a hospital held up a hand lettered sign written on a piece of cardboard that said: “who will take care of you when we are dead?”
As I watched the news on TV in April, while the number of COVID-19 cases skyrocketed, nurses and other healthcare providers who had worked 12 to 16 hour shifts day after day and week after week were protesting outside of their hospital. These nurses were taking time away from desperately needed sleep to protest due to the lack of paper based personal protective equipment, including N95 respirators and disposable gowns. These products could have been made quickly and easily if actions had been taken shortly after the course of this deadly viral pandemic was apparent. Lack of adequate PPE during that time put patients and healthcare providers at risk, and contributed to the deaths of many healthcare providers.
On May 3, 2020 (not quite 1 month after this site was launched) there were 3,485,948 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide (compared to 1,347,676 on April 6th) and 246,126 deaths (compared to 74,744). United States confirmed cases at that moment were recorded as 1,149,197 (JHU).
When I updated this on October 25, 2020, the U.S. response to the pandemic was deplorable. Wearing a mask to prevent droplet and airborne transmission to others and social distancing were considered political issues for many people. A large segment of the population not only did not understand how lethal this virus was, but in some cases believed the COVID-19 pandemic was a hoax. At that time, the U.S. had 4% of the world’s population and 21% of global deaths. As of October 25th, 225,067 Americans were dead and 8,607,419 had tested positive for COVID-19. Case-fatality rates in the individual U.S. states were ranging from 2 to 8% (Connecticut). Worldwide there had been 1,152,065 deaths and 42,855,971 infections (JHU). The case-fatality rate was approximately 2.6%.
In the U.S., September and October 2020 were filled with super spreader rallies and various other large events held throughout the country by people who denied the seriousness of COVID-19. Despite the pleas of exhausted nurses, physicians and other health care providers, these people refused to wear masks and socially distance and the result was a massive surge in confirmed cases, significant morbidity and deaths that could have been prevented. That winter, flu season, major holidays, COVID-19 fatigue, and an increase in indoor activities extracted a heavy toll.
As of November 19, 2020 over 1,396 American healthcare providers had already died of COVID-19 (Kaiser). The number of confirmed cases was near 12 million and 252,514 Americans were dead. A total of 1,848 deaths were recorded for November 18th (JHU) The United States had the dubious distinction of leading the world in COVID-19 cases.
Hospitals were already filled to capacity in many areas of the country and dead bodies were stacked inside refrigerated trucks that are served as temporary morgues, because funeral homes could not keep up with the volume of bodies. Patients who were very high risk, with active COVID-19 pneumonia, ground glass opacities on CT scan indicative of significant alveolar damage, and asymptomatic hypoxemia were being cared for in their homes to open beds for the most critically ill patients. It was not unusual for overflow patients in emergency departments to be cared for in hallways. Non-urgent surgeries were cancelled for lack of beds and PPE. Crisis standards of care have been necessary throughout the U.S. healthcare system.
As of December 16, 2021, this pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 802,510 Americans and 5,330,120 have died worldwide. On the other hand, more than 485,994,275 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the U.S., and 8,549,236,696 have been administered across the planet (JHU). Though vaccinated individuals may still get infected, there is strong evidence that the risk of morbidity and mortality is significantly reduced. Monoclonal antibodies provide an effective treatment option for many, though there are some lineages of the Delta variant showing resistance to these treatments (CDC). Antiviral agents for COVID-19 are in development. At least here in the U.S., the challenges of COVID-19 has led to emergence of nurse and physician experts in viral epidemiology, treatment for COVID-19 and improved infection control efforts in all settings from critical care units to home health. All of these efforts have led to improved outcomes. The U.S. case fatality rate is down to 1.59%. Unfortunately, there are still many countries with very high fatality rates (JHU), especially in the developing world.
According to the World Health Organization an estimated 80,000 to 180,000 healthcare workers may have died from COVID-19 infections as of May 2021 (WHO). Vaccinations, effective treatments, hospital beds and staff, and personal protective equipment are not readily available to our colleagues practicing in many developing countries.
We have a very long way to go in the fight against COVID-19. The ability of this virus to mutate will present ongoing issues for many years. In addition to Delta and Omicron, we will no doubt face other variants of concern. Much has been learned, and we are in the midst of an unprecedented global response. I have faith that we will not only become better able to face this current enemy, but that we have also come to understand how to prevent future pandemics before they are out of control.
This organization is dedicated to nurses and other healthcare providers worldwide who are providing supportive care to patients with COVID-19 at the front lines of the battle with this invisible enemy. One day this will be over and we will be left with the memories and a much greater understanding of our global connections. Today, it is pretty clear that what happens in one location can very rapidly have a worldwide impact. Let’s join together to create a brighter future.
*Source for COVID-19 infections, deaths and case-fatality rates: Johns Hopkins University and Medicine (2020-2021). Coronavirus Resource Center. Retrieved from: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html
**The Staff of Kaiser Health News and the Guardian (2020). Lost on the Frontline. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2020/aug/11/lost-on-the-frontline-covid-19-coronavirus-us-healthcare-workers-deaths-database
***World Health Organization (October 20, 2021). Health and care worker deaths during COVID-19. https://www.who.int/news/item/20-10-2021-health-and-care-worker-deaths-during-covid-19
****CDC(December 1, 2021). SARS-CoV-2 variant classifications and definitions. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/variant-classifications.html#anchor_1632237683347