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Supporting recovery from COVID-19

26 November 2020
Volume 29 · Issue 21


COVID-19 is a new disease. Most research into the disease has focused on prevention of viral spread and treatment, but little is known about how patients recover. Nurses, whether in hospital, the community or in primary care, have a key role in supporting recovery from COVID-19. In this article, direct evidence from studies of COVID-19, and indirect evidence from studies of infections caused by other coronaviruses (eg SARS, MERS) and of the ICU experience are explored to identify the potential course of recovery and areas where nurses can help. Most people will have an uncomplicated recovery. However, it appears that a more complicated recovery is likely to be associated with severe disease. A minority, possibly those needing hospitalisation, and/or with pre-existing physical or psychological comorbidities, may experience long-term physical effects, fatigue and mental health difficulties. The support that nurses, as part of a multidisciplinary team, can provide to facilitate recovery is discussed.

Most COVID-19 research, policy and guidance focuses on prevention of the spread of infection and management of acute disease (Vittori et al, 2020). However, months into the pandemic, there is a need for nurses to understand how to support recovery from COVID-19. At the time of press, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK (first recorded in March 2020) is 1 430 341 and there have been 63 873 deaths (Public Health England, 2020). It should be noted that the method of calculating these statistics was changed by the UK Government in July 2020 due to controversy over reporting methods (Office for National Statistics, 2020). Mortality rates vary across age groups with older people over the age of 70 years more likely to die (7.8%) from the disease; overall mortality has been estimated at 0.66% (Mahase, 2020). The total number of UK hospital admissions due to COVID-19 reported to date is 198 185, and there are currently 1420 patients on ventilation (Public Health England, 2020). This article discusses current understanding and the management and prevention of potential longer-term physical and mental health effects of COVID-19.

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