Dr. Stephanie Ferguson, PhD, RN, FAAN, FNAP, Founder, CEO, and President of Stephanie L. Ferguson & Associates, LLC.

The Time to Act is Now: Dr. Stephanie Ferguson on the Critical Role of Nurses During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Content Note: This article includes mention of suicide.

Meaningful Measures to Deal with the COVID-19 Pandemic

When asked about the most important thing Congress can do to impact the pandemic, Dr. Ferguson stressed a focus on increased testing and re-opening of healthcare delivery systems to resume elective surgeries that had been postponed. She also raised concerns about the possibility of COVID-19 and the upcoming flu season occurring at the same time and called for vaccination of vulnerable populations in order to prevent deaths unrelated to COVID-19. She shared:

Ending a Vicious Cycle

In the middle of a global pandemic, the last thing needed is the shutting down of health care delivery systems and not having enough resources to pay healthcare professionals and ensure their safety. Dr. Ferguson shared her thoughts on opening up the U.S healthcare delivery system with general nurses and advanced practice registered nurses at the frontline where they need to be, with appropriate gear to protect themselves while taking care of patients. She also talked about the furloughs and licensing challenges the nurses are currently facing. The furloughing of healthcare workers is not the right thing if the U.S. wants to turn around the current pandemic. Dr. Ferguson opined:

A Pandemic Does Not Discriminate

Dr. Ferguson addressed her concerns about Black and Brown neighborhoods, which are more likely to be exposed to coronavirus due to the historical and current marginalization of their communities that creates circumstances such as residence in high population density areas, overrepresentation in lower-paying jobs that are deemed “essential”, and inability to stop working at those jobs because they need income to support their families:

Dr. Stephanie Ferguson, PhD, RN, FAAN, FNAP, Founder, CEO, and President of Stephanie L. Ferguson & Associates, LLC (Right), was virtually interviewed by Dr. Sara Bleich, Professor of Public Health Policy in Department of Health Policy and Management and Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (Left) for the Voices in Leadership web series for the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

On the International Front

The readiness of a country to deal with this pandemic is dependent on increased testing and ensuring the safety of their health care professionals. It is important to watch and learn from countries that are able to handle pandemics appropriately and from countries who were not able to adequately deal with COVID-19. Dr. Ferguson urged:

Short-and-Long Term Planning

The first thing the U.S. needs to do is to be honest about its shortcomings. Investing in nurses, instilling appropriate regulatory systems in nursing that work with the accreditation of academic institutions, and reforming curricula to ensure nurses have the right licenses to protect people during a pandemic, are all things the U.S. needs to improve. The country’s leaders have to make it a priority to ensure nurses are well-equipped with all the resources needed to work on the frontlines.

Optimism During Difficult Times

Dr. Ferguson is clearly optimistic about the future when asked to give reasons for hope. To her, every nurse in the world is resilient and responsible and is leading the crisis by doing all the right things. Players in the health and policy systems must ensure they have everything they need so they can do their jobs.

Voices in Leadership webcast series enhances leadership, connecting high-profile leaders with the Harvard School of Public Health community. hsph.me/voices