For most people, fall means orange leaves, pumpkin-spiced lattes, cute knit scarves, and scary movies, but for nurses, this is the season of crowded emergency rooms and clinics filled with folks running fevers and coughing. That’s right: it’s the dreaded flu season. And this year will invariably be worse than most flu and cold seasons we’ve experienced in the past. With the drier air comes a faster spread of both the regular seasonal flu and COVID-19. It will undoubtedly be a busy season for travel nurses, who are already in high demand around flu season.
Here’s what nurses should be prepared for as we head into the colder weather.
First, a little bit of hope: If COVID-19 restrictions stay in place (or tighten) it’s possible we’ll see fewer cases of the flu.
Considering how well the U.S. is doing with containing the spread of COVID-19 (not great, considering we have 4 percent of the world’s population and 21 percent of its coronavirus deaths), this might be a little optimistic. However, countries in the Southern Hemisphere who are already well into their flu season have reported fewer flu cases because of travel restrictions, social distancing, and wearing masks.
But as the weather gets colder, outside gathering options will be limited, and likely more people will be inside together. So the latter could cancel out the former. It remains to be seen.
Get your placements in order now.
Hospitals are already working to bulk up their staff in anticipation of a hectic cold and flu season. If you specialize in ICU or the Emergency Department, you’re in extremely high demand. Now is the time to figure out where you really want to be right now as a travel nurse, because it’s likely that there are spots open almost anywhere. That might not be the case a month or even a few weeks from now as spots fill up, so start putting in for the placements you want now.
Your patients can be infected with both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.
The CDC has confirmed that, yes, it is possible to contract two viruses at once. This will mean patients will need careful treatment from healthcare professionals who can diagnose symptoms of both viruses. It also means that several people will likely have to be hospitalized more than once, making emergency rooms and ICUs even more crowded.
Don’t forget to vaccinate!
While we might not have a vaccine for COVID-19 yet, we certainly have one for the flu this season. If you haven’t already, get yours now! According to the CDC, everyone should get their annual flu vaccine by the end of October. And keep in mind that it takes about two weeks after getting your shot for antibodies to develop. So don’t go thinking you’re immune right after getting vaccinated.
Want to secure your dream placement as flu season begins? Check out Stability’s list of high-paying placements here.