Faculty Q&A: Sue Anne Bell on community impacts of coronavirus

Sue Anne Bell head shotSue Anne Bell, Ph.D., FNP-BC, is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing and a disaster expert. She serves on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Disaster Medical System and is currently deployed as part of the national COVID-19 response. She is prohibited from discussing specifics, but can relate general lessons from this and other disasters.

What are you seeing as the greatest need for health care workers?

There is a critical shortage of supplies—masks, face shields, thermometers, hand sanitizer. We are going to see this for the duration, and need creative solutions. I’ve seen news reports about distilleries switching from making hard liquor to hand sanitizer. I’ve heard about creative uses of 3D printers, for those few who have access, to print certain types of medical supplies.

I believe there will be critical shortages of qualified health care providers. ICU nurses, for example, are highly specialized and highly competent—and also highly in demand in “normal” conditions. Right now, we need just-in-time training for all levels of providers, from physicians to nurses to ancillary staff. If we can train, for example, nurses from outside of the ICU to take on some of the less complex tasks in an ICU, that could free overburdened ICU nurses for more complex care. Task shifting like this isn’t new but could have important implications.

Additionally, some cities are developing volunteer cohorts of health care providers not currently employed in direct patient care. We may need these willing individuals to assume a role, whether it’s supporting overwhelmed nursing homes or basic screening at testing sites.

Read the full Q&A with Michigan News