Baylor-led Study Examines COVID-19’s Effects on Pediatric APRNs

By Carol Davis

Pediatric advance practice registered nurses (APRN) not only face mental health concerns 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 Burned Out: COVID-19 Emerging Impacts Threaten 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-focused APRNs through a survey of 789 participants.

Although the effects of COVID-19 in children have not been as severe as they have been with adults, or even as prior outbreaks of communicable diseases, such as polio, the pandemic has fundamentally altered pediatric care delivery across the United States, Peck says in the study.

Pediatric APRNs and agencies are experiencing significant disruption in care provision, patient presentations, clinical practices, immunizations, and revenue streams, the study says.

Furthermore, some pediatric APRNs have transitioned to work with adult populations “in an unprecedented fashion,” while others have been temporarily furloughed or permanently laid off due to a stronger demand for critical care nurses and a lower demand for primary care nurses.

“While physical disease impacts on children have generally not been as dire as some historic precedents like polio, they are by no means spared,” Peck said in a press release.

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

As with most nurses, the strongest impact of COVID-19 has been on APRNs’ mental health. The research indicates that 34% of respondents are feeling moderate to extreme concern for professional burnout; 25% feel anxious or nervous; and 15% are experiencing depression or hopelessness. Overall, 20% of participants reported feeling moderate to extreme concern for their mental health.

“As a profession, many pediatric nursing professionals are working far more hours for far less compensation, isolated from professional networks. They are learning new technologies and implementing new policies in little time with even less support. Pediatric clinics are severely disrupted,” Peck said.

“Children’s hospitals received less than 1% of all federal relief monies provided to U.S. hospitals, leaving children without access to care,” she said. “All of this contributes to destabilized pediatric infrastructure, which disproportionately impacts marginalized children.”

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