About 77 percent of Korean nurses at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19 suffered from severe anxiety that they might contract the virus due to poor working conditions, a survey showed.
The Korean Nurses Association (KNA) on Wednesday released the results of an opinion poll on nurses who care for patients infected with Covid-19. The survey aimed to check the nurses’ working conditions in response to Covid-19 and enhance the government’s support for safer and more efficient healthcare services.
The poll was on 960 nurses employed by or dispatched to isolated examination facilities, infectious disease specializing hospitals, state-designated Covid-19 treatment hospitals, and government-designated hospitals for serious and urgent Covid-19 patients.
More than half of the respondents (55.7 percent) said they had to work for more than two days, even when they did not feel well. Among them, 27.3 percent said they had to work full time every day even though their health conditions were abnormal.
Nurses working in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, where more than 60 percent of local infections occurred, came up with such responses 1.9 times more than those in other regions. Nurses hired by hospitals also gave such answers 3.2 times more than those dispatched from other organizations.
However, 93.8 percent of nurses who belonged to hospitals said their employers did not give them overtime pay, unlike dispatched ones.
Most of the nurses (72.1 percent) worked in three shifts daily, and 16.8 percent worked more than one-hour overtime per day.
Three out of four nurses (76.5 percent) who had been struggling to care for Covid-19 patients in a poor working environment said they feared of infection significantly. They cited fatigue accumulation due to excessive work (52.6 percent) and insufficient concentration due to long work hours (31.7 percent) as the main reasons for Covid-19 infection risk.
To prevent the spread of Covid-19, nurses must self-isolate after work. However, 70.3 percent of the respondents said they could not do so. Self-quarantine was more difficult for nurses employed by hospitals (77.5 percent) than nurses who were dispatched.
The greatest difficulty during the work was the removal of Level D protective clothing, and the average working time in protective clothing was two hours, the poll showed. About 24 percent said they worked for more than four hours consecutively without changing clothes.
Even after removing protective clothing, nurses could not rest properly. About 40 percent said they had less than one hour of resting time, but they had to receive doctors’ prescriptions or keep nursing records during the time.
Nurses fighting Covid-19 appealed that they needed compensation, thoughtful consideration, and attention. Compensation should be provided as money (47.5 percent), additional annual leave and sufficient rest (41.5 percent), or psychological counseling (8.6 percent), said the respondents.
The survey also revealed that nurses needed a standardized level of training in preparation for infectious diseases. Most of the dispatched nurses (92.0 percent) received a certain level of training, but 22.5 percent of nurses employed by hospitals cared for Covid-19 patients without any preparation.
The KNA said the nation needed to increase the number of nurses, so hospitals do not temporarily hire volunteering nurses in disease control and prevention.
“Rather than letting individual hospitals to operate the disease control system, the authorities should install a separate control tower to cover a wide region,” the KNA said. “They need to build such a system to provide medical supplies and manpower more efficiently and communicate better.”
<© Korea Biomedical Review, All rights reserved.>