New study examines long-term effects of COVID-19

Associate Professor Mary Fran Tracy and Sandy HagstromAssociate Professor Mary Fran Tracy and Sandy Hagstrom

Findings will provide guidance to improve nursing practice

May 20, 2020
A recently-funded University of Minnesota School of Nursing study will examine if COVID-19 patients suffer long-term side effects from the experience. Research already shows that patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) who are ventilated can experience post intensive care syndrome, which can lead to cognitive and physical impairments, as well as psychological issues. While it is likely that these same conditions are a potential for ventilated COVID-19 patients, researchers will seek to understand if patients with COVID-19 who are hospitalized on a medical unit and never admitted to the ICU develop these conditions because of the unique experience of having a sudden, unanticipated infectious disease.

“Information discovered from this research has the potential to directly impact nursing not only for COVID-19 patients, but also for patients who are impacted in other types of pandemic situations or who must remain in very strict isolation,” said Associate Professor Mary Fran Tracy, PhD, RN, APRN, CNS, FCNS, FAAN, principal investigator. “We hope our findings give guidance that can ultimately improve nursing practice.”

Specially, the research will explore the emotional, mental health and physical symptoms COVID-19 patients experience after being discharged from a medical unit or ICU. Additionally, the research will identify gaps in hospital and follow-up care that can be addressed to prevent consequences and optimize patient outcomes.

Approximately 150 participants, who were hospitalized at M Health Fairview, will be asked to complete surveys during the three-month period after they are discharged. Researchers will also examine electronic health record data for additional information about the patient’s hospitalization.

“COVID-19 patients can experience symptoms lasting weeks or longer and we have limited knowledge of short and long-term disease course and potential for re-infection."
 - Mary Fran Tracy

“We know that there are factors specific to COVID-19 that may contribute to an increased likelihood of long-term effects, like the severity of the disease, prolonged shortness of breath, strict isolation and the impact of sudden illness in previously healthy people,” said Tracy. “COVID-19 patients can experience symptoms lasting weeks or longer and we have limited knowledge of short and long-term disease course and potential for re-infection. All this may predispose patients to new challenges because of their COVID-19 experience.”

Ultimately, the research findings can be used to provide guidance about how to reduce feelings of social and emotional loneliness during strict isolation and to understand the recovery trajectory of COVID-19 patients so that resources to improve outcomes before and after hospital discharge can be identified. In addition, the findings can assist in the development interventions to reduce the risk of developing longer-term emotional, mental health and physical disturbances.

Co-investigators include Sandy Hagstrom, PhD, RN, APRN, CPNP; Sarah Wente, PhD, RN, and Ruth Lindquist, PhD, RN. The project was funded by a University of Minnesota Clinical and Translational Science Institute grant.