Nurses, from left to right: Tadanori Tsuchiya of Japan, Krizelle Pum of California, and Graig Straus of New York.

Courtesy of Tadanori Tsuchiya, Krizelle Pum, and Graig Straus

Business Insider spoke with three nurses treating coronavirus patients in the US and Japan, who shared their greatest wishes for International Nurses Day. 

They said people should stay home when possible, thank their nurses “one on one,” and remember that the healthcare issues being exposed by the coronavirus (staffing, equipment shortages) still need fixing when the COVID-19 crisis resolves.

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Nurses are being cheered on every night around the world in city-wide calls ringing out from New York to Vancouver, Istanbul, Paris, and Madrid.

But the claps and cheers can’t mask a harsh reality.

More than 260 nurses worldwide have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and more than 90,000 healthcare workers have been infected with the virus, according to the International Council of Nurses.

“Nurses are a bridge between the health system and the community,” World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.

“We have to celebrate our nurses,” he said, and “not only during COVID-19.”

Business Insider spoke with three nurses who’ve been working on the frontlines of COVID-19 response, in Japan, New York, and California. Here’s how they would like to be honored for International Nurses Day. 

Krizelle Pum, an ICU nurse in Long Beach, California, says the best thing to do for nurses is “stay home” Personal trainer Flo Dowler leads residents of Napier Avenue in a fitness class in Fulham, West London, May 11, 2020.

Reuters/Kevin Coombs

Krizelle Pum has been a nurse for three years, and the Monster nursing advisor says that things in the intensive care unit where she works are busier than normal right now, and much more stressful. 

“Usually during summertime, adult ICU tends to get a little bit more quiet,” she said,. That is not the case right now as COVID-19 patients stream in overnight. “It’s just crazy how bad the patients can get, and how fast it can happen.”

Pum said after her night shifts with COVID-19 patients, “I come home with a headache every time, and I think a lot of it is just the fear of getting exposed.” 

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She also worries a lot about cross-contamination when she’s putting on and taking off her gear.

“It takes a few minutes to put on your PPE [personal protective equipment],” she said.

Pum’s gear includes a mask, hair protection, a gown, shoe covers, and goggles.

“Sometimes when you’re rushing, sometimes you just fear maybe not putting on things correctly, or forgetting to put on things, or even just leaving the room, making sure you’re not touching anything,” Pum said. “There’s just a lot of fear and anxiety going around, more than usual, and we’re pretty good in handling that, but it’s just been a lot more stressful.” 

She worries especially about the situation in local nursing homes, where caregivers don’t always have enough masks. If there’s anything she’d ask for people’s help with right now, it would be donating professional grade masks or other PPE to local nursing care facilities in need.

Above all, she said people should stay home when they can, and don’t get too “lax” about following social distancing measures.

“I feel like there’s really not much that we need from the community besides just staying home and keeping themselves safe,” she said. “I guess just prayers, I would say, would be the most important thing right now.” 

Nurse Graig Straus said we should thank nurses and remember them when this is overNurses wearing face masks mark International Nurses Day, at Wuhan Tongji Hospital in China, May 12, 2020.

China Daily via Reuters

Graig Straus says that COVID-19 cases are “on the decline” where he works in Rockland County, about 30 miles north of New York City.

Straus, who’s President of Rockland Urgent Care Family Health and a Monster nursing advisor, has been a nurse for 14 years and an EMS for 22. 

He said many people are rushing to his clinic these days for COVID-19 tests.

“The emergency department sees one person that’s failing and dying, and it’s terrible,” he said. “But the urgent care centers, and the places that are doing the testing, or the physicians offices that are open right now, are seeing the family members of all of them. So if one person is dying, then you have five family members that are coming to the urgent care center a wreck. Basically a wreck, thinking they’re next.”

Many people are also coming in to his clinic for antibody testing, which some employers are asking for, to determine if someone had a previous COVID-19 infection, even though scientists don’t yet know what kind of immunity a prior infection might provide.

Straus said people are confused and frustrated that there is no good way to manage the virus, and some get aggressive, asking for tests or unproven treatments that clinicians can’t necessarily provide.

“Nurses are being asked and yelled at and screamed at and pressured by their patients and family members to say, ‘Well, how come you’re not doing this for me?’ Or, ‘How come you’re not doing that for me?’ … And the answers they have to give are, ‘We have different protocols’ or ‘We have different guidelines’ or ‘This is not the way it really works,'” Straus said.  

He said the public outpouring of support for frontline healthcare workers in daily cheers and food donations is nice, but he’d like people to try something even more simple.

“A thank you is the best way to thank a nurse,” he said. “Honestly, a simple thank you. A simple recognition of their work is the best thing to do for them, on a personal, one-on-one level.” 

Finally, he said that the very best thing people can do for nurses, in the long run, is to not forget about the chronic shortages they face, which have only been exacerbated by this pandemic.

“Staffing ratios are a problem, support for your staff is a problem, equipment is a problem,” he said. “These are all issues that have been going on for ages. It came to light during corona. The best way to thank them? Would be not to forget it after the crisis.” 

Nurse Tadanori Tsuchiya said people should “act responsibly” and “avoid unnecessary going out” A man drinks a beer at an outdoor seating section of a pub, as the Czech government lifted more restrictions allowing restaurants with outdoor areas to re-open in Prague, Czech Republic, May 11, 2020.

Reuters/David W Cerny

Tadanori Tsuchiya, who has been a nurse for 21 years, lives in the Japanese coastal city of Kamogawa, about an hour and a half south of Tokyo.

He said it’s been hard to get enough protective gear where he works, and that gowns and gloves are in short supply. 

“We have to use the same ones many times, which is very inconvenient, and we can’t use them as they’re supposed to be used,” Tuchiya told Business Insider. 

He said he wants the public to “act responsibly” during this time. 

“It is crucial to avoid non-urgent, unnecessary going out,” he said, even in a beach town like his. 

Tsuchiya, who’s been a nurse practitioner for the past two years, says he hungers for more statistics about COVID-19 in Japan, and wishes there was more clear, evidence-based guidance in this crisis.

“We need information with high-level evidence,” he said, “and standardized guidelines for how to manage COVID-19, not only for specialists, but for the general population.”

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