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The experiences of nurses during COVID-19 in British Columbia, Canada

The Project identified the effects of COVID-19 on women healthcare workers’ health and wellbeing in British Columbia (BC), Canada. This brief provides an overview of the findings from research with nurses. It identifies levers of change to strengthen gender-responsive health systems and better support women healthcare workers to ensure they can provide a high standard of care whilst protecting their own wellbeing and career progression. Our analysis highlights risks, challenges and inequities faced by women nurses during the pandemic in BC. The data indicates the need for systems- level change in terms of policies and procedures for women nurses during the pandemic to ensure the safety of both themselves and their patients.

Policy recommendations to support nurses

  • Supply frontline healthcare workers with continual access to adequate, high-quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection
  • Provide paid leave and benefits to healthcare workers who experience COVID-19 infection or mental health problems or have to provide care to dependents affected by COVID-19.
  • Offer training and education opportunities for healthcare workers to keep up to date with changing protocols while minimizing potential increases to their work burden, such as by providing paid education days.
  • Hire more nurses to help reduce workloads and burnout and ensure healthcare workers can take time off when needed.
  • Increase women healthcare workers’ representation in health care leadership and participation in decision-making opportunities to enable them to advocate for policies that meet their needs and those of their patients and clients.
  • Arrange childcare support in a manner that is accessible and considers the schedules and needs of frontline healthcare workers, such as by offering onsite childcare.
  • Encourage flexibility in working hours and opportunities to work from home whenever possible to allow healthcare workers to better balance their paid and unpaid caregiving roles.
  • Run public awareness campaigns that combat misinformation around COVID-19 to reduce stigma towards healthcare workers.
  • Establish programs and opportunities for healthcare workers to access fresh and healthy meals during their work shifts.
  • Offer proactive support to tackle mental ill-health and burnout, such as burnout prevention activities or providing mental health professionals onsite for debriefing and counseling.

Oveisi et al. (2021) The Experiences of Nurses in British Columbia, Canada during COVID-19. Gender and COVID-19 Project

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