Safe Harbor and Resilience - What Nurses Need to Know About COVID-19
Monday, March 16, 2020
Posted by: Kanaka Sathasivan
Nurses are often called to respond to disasters. They participate in operationalizing and implementing emergency preparedness plans within their organizations, they work additional hours, they volunteer at shelters for displaced medically fragile persons, and they coordinate medical supplies, blood donations and other vital resources.
We are seeing the same disaster mechanisms starting to play out in the response to COVID-19. We expect that in the coming weeks and months, the health care system will be at capacity or overburdened. Nurses and other front-line health care works will be the most vulnerable populations to the virus. And nurses need to be ready for a high-stress environment that lasts not just a few days, but potentially for many months.
Protect Your Practice with Safe Harbor
When nurses find themselves in compromising situations, there are resources available to them and laws in place to protect the nurse and their license.
Nurses can invoke safe harbor, in good faith, to protect their licenses if they find themselves in compromised practice situations where it is not in the best interest of patients for them to accept an assignment, e.g. working mandatory overtime, accepting expanded patient assignments, etc. And now nurses can also use oral safe harbor when they are unable to stop what they are doing to fill out forms. (Read the story of how one nurse worked through TNA to make this possible.)
Nurse executives should support nurses who exercise their rights to protect their licenses and not view safe harbor requests as an affront to their leadership.
Build Resilience and Self-Care
Responding to a disaster is a familiar process for several nurses in Texas. However, there is a large majority who have never experienced working in disaster situations such as hurricanes, mass shootings, or disease outbreaks and therefore may not be aware of their role in the emergency preparedness process and what they can do for themselves.
During disaster situations, nurses often find themselves dealing with the challenges of potentially undesirable outcomes of providing care in compromised environments with lack of staff or supplies. Simultaneously, they may be worried about their family and loved ones. These challenging situations can cause mental and physical fatigue leading to moral distress. This is often related to the ethical concerns arising from conflicting values and obligations inherent in the disaster work environment.
Care for the Caregiver resources are available to help nurses balance care for patients with care for family and self.
Contact TNA for Answers
Remember, the TNA practice hotline line is an available resource for nurses with questions related to nursing practice. This is a free resource for all Texas nurses: 1.800.862.2022, ext.132
Members with any question (not just those relating to practice) can take advantage of the online Member Helpline.