Catching Up On Healthcare Appointments Missed During (And After) The Pandemic

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Times were stressful (to say the least) during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many routine tasks got pushed to the backburner. Nurses worked even longer hours under excruciatingly stressful circumstances. At home, many nurses also had to deal with virtual schooling or daycare closings for their kids. Loved ones who once worked outside of the home began working from home.

During this chaos, many people delayed routine medical appointments and vaccinations. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 4 in 10 American adults avoided medical care in 2020 because of concerns related to COVID-19.

Do you fall into this group? Maybe your reason for delaying healthcare was because of added stress (you’ve had so much on your plate), or not wanting to expose yourself to COVID-19 unnecessarily. No matter the reason, if you haven’t already, it’s time to get back on track with your healthcare appointments.

Recommended Vaccines for Healthcare Workers
If you missed a recommended vaccine over the past year, now is the time to get it done. Check with your primary care physician to see which vaccines you may need based on your age and risk factors. The CDC recommends the following vaccinations for employees in a healthcare field who are at risk for exposure to serious, sometimes deadly diseases:
  • Flu (influenza)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Meningococcal
  • MMR (Measles, Mumps, & Rubella)
  • Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis)
  • Varicella (Chickenpox)

Additionally, the American Nurses Association recommends that nurses be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Cancer Screenings
It’s always better to detect cancer early. Putting off a cancer screening could delay detection, and sometimes, that can mean the difference between life and death. For example, the risk of dying from advanced cancer is much higher than dying from COVID-19. The CDC says it’s essential to resume these screenings if applicable:
  • Breast cancer (mammograms)
  • Cervical cancer (pap test)
  • Colon cancer (colonoscopies or other colon screenings)
  • Lung cancer (for long-time smokers)

Consider your risk factors and talk to your primary care healthcare provider about which cancer screenings are applicable to you. For example, some people may need to begin breast or colon cancer screening at a younger age if it’s in their immediate family history.

Routine Preventive Care
The CDC report mentioned above also found that 31.5% of respondents avoided routine care over the past year. As a nurse, you know the importance of preventive care for maintaining good health. Avoiding routine check-ups for too long can lead to the development of health problems that, when left undetected too long, can have serious consequences.

Think back to the last time you had one of these routine appointments for yourself or a loved one. Is it time to get back in the books?
  • Blood pressure screening
  • Cholesterol screening
  • Dental check-up
  • Depression/mental health screening
  • Type 2 diabetes screening
  • Well-woman visits
  • Annual physical

If you’re not sure what routine care you or a family member might need, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers an online tool called MyHealthFinder. After entering your age, sex, and a few additional questions, it shows you which screening tests and vaccines you or a loved one need to stay healthy.

For example, recommendations for a 32-year-old woman who is not pregnant include getting the seasonal flu vaccine, getting tested for Hepatitis C, having an annual well-woman visit, getting her blood pressure checked, and more. The tool also provides related resources and articles for further reading.

Here are some other health information sources for both men and women, based on their unique needs.

Don’t Delay — It’s Time to Catch Up
This is your reminder and motivation to get back on schedule with your healthcare appointments (and those of your loved ones). Seeking primary care and routine screenings is safe — many facilities are still implementing extra precautions like:
  • Visitor restrictions
  • Face mask requirements
  • Reorganized and physically distanced waiting rooms
  • Enhanced cleaning

We don’t need to remind you of the benefits of keeping up with healthcare appointments. You know that procrastinating necessary screenings, vaccinations, and preventive care can result in worsening health in the long run. The time to catch up is now.

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Posted by Holly E Carpenter, RN, BSN on Jul 6, 2021 3:21 PM America/Chicago

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