Omicron Variant Roundup: Key Talking Points for Travel Nurses

Written by Rose Torrento on Thursday, February 03, 2022 Posted in Industry News

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When people fall ill, they want to know exactly what’s wrong with them. They’re concerned about symptoms, outcomes, side effects, and, most importantly, recovery. When their illness is serious enough to warrant a hospital stay, it’s nurses who find themselves at the receiving end of these questions. This has been true throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the emergence of the Omicron variant, it’s starting all over again. Patients want information, and they expect nurses to have it.

Transmission and hospitalizations

Omicron is steadily becoming the most common variant among positive COVID-19 cases. It’s the latest variant to date and the most transmissible. People infected with the Omicron variant can more easily spread it to others than previous variants. Omicron’s high transmissibility explains why infection rates are spiking around the world.

Despite Omicron’s higher rate of infection, cases appear to be much less severe than both the Delta variant and the original strain. Studies on lab animals find one-tenth the level of Omicron in the lungs in comparison with other variants. As positive COVID-19 cases skyrocket, hospitalizations have only increased marginally. Increased hospitalizations are the result of more cases rather than more danger.

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Comparing Omicron to previous variants

Researchers detected the first Omicron case in South Africa in November 2021. It first emerged in young adults with flu-like symptoms. Fully vaccinated individuals can still catch Omicron, but in general, their symptoms feel more like a mild cold. Unvaccinated individuals typically develop more severe symptoms, including fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

Much like with other strains of COVID-19, the most at-risk individuals are those who have yet to receive vaccination. Omicron has led to breakthrough cases, but current vaccines have proven effective for reducing the risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and death. Demographics at risk still include the immunocompromised, people over the age of 65, and children too young to receive a vaccine.

Individuals who have previously contracted COVID-19 are susceptible to reinfection from Omicron. Compared to previous strains, vaccines are more effective at preventing severe illness than protecting people from infection. But evidence has shown current vaccines can neutralize the Omicron variant.

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Safety measures for traveling nurses

The CDC recommends everyone, especially healthcare providers, continue efforts to slow the rate of transmission. People should get fully vaccinated, and the vaccinated should receive a booster as soon as it’s available in their area. Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent overburdening hospitals with new Omicron cases.

Safety measures from the beginning of the pandemic still apply for protecting individuals from Omicron. This includes frequent handwashing, wearing a mask, and social distancing.

Nurses caring for COVID-19 patients should wear additional personal protective equipment and receive regular tests. And armed with good information, travel nurses are equipped to help infected or at-risk patients understand the implications of a positive COVID-19 test and the Omicron variant.

Today’s most in-demand travel nursing assignments frequently put nurses on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic — particularly in areas where Omicron cases are spiking. If you have questions about taking an assignment at a facility with a high census due to COVID-19, talk with your Health Providers Choice recruiter. Contact us online or call us today at 888-299-9800 for more information.

About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.