When Boris Johnson gave his first speech after leaving hospital where he’d been treated for COVID-19, he thanked the nurses profusely. The Prime Minister emotionally name-checked several of the nurses who cared for him during what was surely a stressful and traumatic time. He described the care he’d received from these nurses as “astonishing” – and said he’d be grateful for the rest of his life.
Despite his profile, the PM didn’t receive any special standard of nursing care. His team were “just” doing the job they perform day in, day out. This includes helping people with those essential and intimate tasks of life that we normally take for granted – washing, eating, cleaning, going to the toilet. That takes skill, compassion and empathy.
It’s no surprise that the PM remembered his nurses. All patients in hospital remember the nurses that care for them. There is a saying that when everyone else has left the bedside, it’s the nurse that stays behind to be with the patient. That’s the kind of presence no one forgets.
Nurses up and down the country have faced extremely challenging conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, they’ve delivered astonishing care to thousands of patients. This has been an incredible feat. Nurses have innovated, adapting wards and the way they work to make way for ever-present oxygen supplies, and finding new ways to support each other. All this while communication, one of the key aspects of good nursing, is hampered by the need to wear masks and protective clothing.
Why we are undertaking the COVID-NURSE trial
Nurses (as well as politicians!) want to know if their innovations are translating into real patient benefit. That’s why we are undertaking the COVID-NURSE study to provide the first scientific guidance for nursing during a pandemic.
In our first step, we examined existing research from previous viral outbreaks and undertook a survey of innovations from NHS nurses. We then worked with patients, nurses, and other health care workers to design a nursing guideline – a kind of blueprint – for pandemics.
Now we are putting our findings to the test. We are conducting a randomised controlled trial, the kind of scientific study we would use for a new treatment – or even a vaccine. We want to determine the effect of our guideline on patient experience, care quality, patients’ ability to manage day-to-day activities, treatment outcomes and costs.
This rigorous exercise will tell us what really works, and enable us to provide our nurses with a system of nursing that they know will deliver the most benefit to patients.
What happens after the trial?
When we will know the answer? Very soon! During October 2020 to March 2021 we will work with patients and nurses in 18 NHS Trusts. We will know what works, for whom and why in early spring 2021.
Once we know, all NHS Trusts, all nurses and all patients will benefit from our findings, whatever they are. We will make sure we communicate these immediately and in a way that anyone can understand. (Of course, we will also write scientific articles as well!).
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