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Nurses hug in a COVID-19 section of a hospital

“Why 2020 will forever be the year of the nurse": A look back on how the pandemic has impacted nursing

Johnson & Johnson has a long legacy of supporting the nursing community—and the challenges brought on by COVID-19 have only strengthened its commitment to find new ways to give back to these essential healthcare workers over the past year.

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There are an estimated 20 million nurses and midwives around the world—the equivalent of more than 50% of the healthcare workforce.

Jennifer Taubert, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals

Jennifer Taubert, Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson

Simone Hannah-Clark, BN, RN, CCRN

Simone Hannah-Clark, BN, RN, CCRN

And as many have witnessed, the healthcare workforce has really been put to the test this year as COVID-19 has spread across the globe.

Despite the global pandemic, the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, led by Jennifer Taubert, Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, has maintained a laser focus on all those the company serves and on its mission to deliver transformational medicines to help treat some of the world’s most devastating diseases.

Taubert is also proud of another role she plays at the company as the executive sponsor of Johnson & Johnson Nursing, a program dedicated to helping elevate the visibility and impact of nurses as innovative leaders who have the power to help strengthen health systems.

Supporting and championing nurses has been a cornerstone of Johnson & Johnson’s work since the company’s earliest days. In fact, in the late 1800s, Johnson & Johnson developed the first mass-produced sterile surgical dressings and sutures, thanks to the help of Elizabeth Washam, then a head nurse in the company’s pioneering aseptic department.

With 2020 coming to a close, Taubert shares her perspective on why she is so passionate about supporting and championing the nursing community, as well as what this unprecedented year has meant to nurses—who are among the millions of frontline health workers who are enduring and persevering through so much as COVID-19 continues to leave its mark on the world.

Jennifer Taubert: “When the World Health Organization designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife—well before the pandemic hit—the idea was to celebrate these essential healthcare professionals and bring to light the challenges often inherent in the profession.

How prophetic that goal turned out to be.

As the impact of COVID-19 on patients and healthcare systems began to manifest, nurses found themselves in situations never seen before, frequently working long hours with limited access to personal protective equipment and evolving guidance on how to care for patients with the virus.

And then there is the emotional toll, which I have found especially poignant. With COVID-19 patients isolated and without access to visitors, nurses have had to provide emotional support to patients and their families alike. In many cases, nurses have had the difficult task of helping families say goodbye to their loved ones by phone and video conference.

Challenging conditions, new ways of working, an unrelenting global pandemic—all of this has created a perfect storm with the potential to seriously impact nurses’ emotional and psychological well-being. In fact, in the current pandemic environment, research has shown that nurses are impacted to a greater degree than their physician counterparts by stress, anxiety and depression.

This is due, in part, to the fact that nurses are the care team members who spend the most time with patients. As a result, they may disproportionately experience changes in operating procedures and protocols, shortages of PPE, heavy workloads, extended shifts and fear of exposure to the virus.

And sadly, with COVID-19 cases continuing to increase in many corners of the world in November and December, the end is not yet in sight.

I have spent my entire career in healthcare, which has deepened my belief that patients must be at the center of all we do. But the pandemic has made it abundantly clear that we can’t do that without ensuring our frontline health care workers are supported as well.

Providing support to those who’ve selflessly provided support to patients

When I stepped into the role of executive sponsor of Johnson & Johnson Nursing, I inherited a legacy I knew was important to not only maintain, but also build upon—and I’m so pleased we’ve found new ways to help in light of the current challenges.

Support for nurses’ mental health and resilience has been a particular focus for us, such as our partnership with the #FirstRespondersFirst initiative, which provides frontline health workers across the world with digital resources, online workshops, virtual training and coaching amidst the pandemic. Through this initiative, we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of visits to our content supporting self-care and positive mental health. In addition, we’ve deployed over $500,000 to mental health providers and organizations for services that help support the most vulnerable on the front lines.

I’m also looking forward to seeing the ideas that come out of the Johnson & Johnson Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge we’re conducting on mental health, in partnership with the American Psychiatric Nurses Association. For this challenge, we’ve invited nurses and nursing students to submit potential solutions for improving mental health for patients and healthcare workers during the pandemic and beyond. It’s just one way Johnson & Johnson Nursing is helping foster nurse-led innovation, because we know that nurses possess a critical frontline view when it comes to devising unique solutions for improving patient care and outcomes.

I’m also proud to see how the Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation—in partnership with such organizations as the World Continuing Education Alliance, International Council of Nurses and Aga Khan Development Network—has supported the creation of a joint program to deliver digital-first training modules on COVID-19 response for health workers.

What I’ve found especially compelling is hearing directly from the nurses who are doing so much behind the scenes. Each one has a unique story to tell and an individual reaction to how their role has changed due to the pandemic. Through See You Now, a podcast series created in partnership with the American Nurses Association, we’re able to shine a light on some of these nurses through a special series, COVID-19: The Nurse Response.

Simone Hannah-Clark, BN, RN, CCRN

Simone Hannah-Clark, BN, RN, CCRN

In one episode in the series, New York City-based Simone Hannah-Clark, BN, RN, CCRN, shared how collaborating across disciplines and crowd-sourcing from social media was crucial for finding innovative, real-time ways to provide COVID-19 care in the intensive care unit where she works.

When cases were spiking, Hannah-Clark and her team—alongside other nurses, therapists, attending physicians, residents and administrators—worked together to prepare patient rooms to accommodate doubled capacity. And by watching videos shared on social media by colleagues in Italy and China, they were able to set up IV pumps with long extension tubing outside patient rooms to preserve PPE amid shortages.

Hannah-Clark authored an article in The New York Times detailing her experience on the frontlines of COVID-19, and I was touched when she said, ‘We build, even as a silent enemy attempts to undo everything we’ve done. We build and we build, shift after shift, as fast—and as best—as we can.’

I have spent my entire career in healthcare, which has deepened my belief that patients must be at the center of all we do. But the pandemic has made it abundantly clear that we can’t do that without ensuring our frontline health workers are supported as well.

It’s gratifying to know we’re doing our part at Johnson & Johnson. And, as we head into the holiday season and the new year, I want to encourage everyone to make a point of recognizing the nurses in their life. I know I will.”

Are You a Nurse With an Idea for Improving Mental Health Care?

Enter the Johnson & Johnson Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge on Mental Health to potentially help transform care for healthcare providers and patients.

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