Psychological First Aid for Nurses During the Pandemic Response

The current pandemic is not likely to resolve quickly. Dr. Elizabeth Heavey’s article discusses the systems that need to be implemented for an extended duration of high patient care needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Systems must plan for an extended duration of high patient care needs with regular cycles of intense stress and demanding work. Preventing and mitigating stress and trauma among healthcare workers is critical to the long-term success of pandemic control efforts. Taking care of the caretakers must be a national priority if we are to sustain our efforts for the long haul.

Psychological First Aid (PFA) is a rapid intervention used to mitigate acute distress during a crisis. PFA is not just for patients and survivors of natural or man-made disasters. PFA can help health care workers involved in the COVID-19 response to return to a pre-crisis level of physiologic and psychological functioning faster than they might without it. PFA addresses acute reactions and immediate needs during and immediately following a crisis. PFA measures include the provision of safety and comfort, identifying immediate needs and concerns, practical assistance, promoting self-efficacy, stress-related symptom reduction, linkage to collaborative resources, and connection to social support. The goal is to address the immediate needs in the situation in order to facilitate the homeostatic process of returning to a pre-crisis level of functioning. This article discusses the steps involved in providing PFA utilizing examples from the author’s own experiences working in the COVID-19 response. 

Heavey, E. (2021). Psychological first aid for nurses during the pandemic response. Nursing, 51 (8), 17-20. doi: 10.1097/01.NURSE.0000754052.65053.fe.

Dr. Elizabeth Heavey, graduate nursing program director, publishes article “

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