Baylor-led Study Examines COVID-19’s Effects on Pediatric Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

The pandemic has fundamentally changed pediatric care delivery in the United States, a new study says.

Pediatric Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) not only deal with mental health issues from COVID-19 like their counterparts who treat the adult population, but they experience some stressors unique to their specialty, according to a new study led by Jessica Peck, DNP, APRN, CPNP-PC, CNE, CNL, FAANP, FAAN, clinical professor at Baylor University’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing.

Exhausted and Burnt Out: COVID-19 Emerging Impacts Threat the Health of the Pediatric Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Workforce, published in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care, examined the holistic effects of COVID-19 on pediatric APRNs through a survey of 789 participants.

While the effects of COVID-19 in children have not been as severe as in adults, or even as past outbreaks of communicable diseases, such as polio, the pandemic has fundamentally changed pediatric care delivery in the United States, Peck says in the study.

Pediatric APRNs and agencies are experiencing significant disruptions in care delivery, patient presentations, clinical practices, immunizations and revenue streams, the study said.

In addition, some pediatric APRNs have transitioned to work with adult populations “in an unprecedented way,” while others have been temporarily or permanently discharged due to increased demand for intensive care nurses and lower demand for primary care nurses.

“While the effects of physical illness on children have generally not been as severe as some historical precedents such as polio, they are certainly not spared,” Peck said in a press release.

“Pandemic conditions have fundamentally changed the standards of pediatric care and as a profession we share collective concerns: severe COVID in children with pre-existing conditions, life-threatening multisystem inflammatory syndrome, disturbing differences in severity of illness and death, particularly for children of color who are responsible account for 75% of pediatric COVID-19 deaths, and free immunization rates with recovery are not yet in sight,” she said.

As with most nurses, the greatest impact of COVID-19 has been on the mental health of APRNs. The survey shows that 34% of respondents have moderate to extreme concern about professional burnout; 25% feel anxious or nervous; and 15% experience depression or hopelessness. Overall, 20% of the participants reported feeling moderate to extreme concern about their mental health.

“As a profession, many pediatric nurses work many more hours for much less compensation, isolated from professional networks. They learn new technologies and implement new policies in a short time with even less support. Pediatric clinics have been severely disrupted,” Peck said.

“Children’s hospitals received less than 1% of all federal aid funds provided to U.S. hospitals, leaving children without access to care,” she said. “All of this contributes to a destabilized pediatric infrastructure, which has a disproportionate impact on marginalized children.”

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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