Why Does It Take a Pandemic to Recognize Nurses?
by Suzanne Gordon
Posted: 08 Apr 2020 07:42 PM PDT
Over the past few weeks, as the coronavirus has whipped through the country, the press, policy makers and the public have finally recognized the value of the largest profession in healthcare. Every media outlet reporting on the crisis now includes comments from nurses, reports on the risks nurses face as they care for patients, discussions of nursing shortages, and the complex work nurses do. It’s about time.
My question is why has it taken this long. And why aren’t policy makers and hospital administrators giving nurses what they need. NOW!!!
For years, nurses have tried to explain their work to the public. I have been honored to help with this work. As I have written in my book Safety in Numbers, unions, like the California Nurses Association, have fought to get safe nurse to patient ratios. Other unions, like the Massachusetts Nurses Association, have fought for the kind of safe staffing legislation, that if enacted in every state except for only one – California – would have encouraged safer nurse to patient ratios and ensured that there would be enough nurses to take care of patients in hospitals all over the country in a time of national emergency. Hospital associations have derailed this kind of legislation whenever and wherever it has been proposed.
Nurses have asked for the lift equipment that would pay for itself and make their work safer. Hospital associations have fought this wherever and whenever it has been proposed. Now nurses are asking for personal protective equipment to make their work safe and hospital associations, legislators, governors, and the President are not supporting this request.
And so nurses are speaking out to the media about the risks of their work and what is the response of their employers? To issue disciplinary warnings, fire them, threaten them, silence them.
Well nurses are rejecting this and must be even more vocal in doing so. And we the public must add our voices to support them.
Not only should nurses be recognized and their insights, concerns and demands solicited, honored, and effectively addressed, so should the needs of all other healthcare workers. Nurses know that healthcare is delivered by a team and that it takes a literal village to care for a patient. We need to listen to nurses and also to nursing assistants, to housekeepers, to dietary workers and transport workers and many others. It takes a team to care for patients with COVID-19 and those team members need our help, support and action now!!!
America has been in a bubble that has suddenly burst. All the “customer” entitlement has had to take a second tier to chaos, calamity and the “gathering storm”. Nurses have been the ornament of a client based hotel style health care system that doesn’t have patients … it has customers and the hospital is shooting for repeat business. Well along comes corona virus and wreaked havoc on hotel accommodation style elective surgeries and pampering. True dedication and sacrifice on the front lines is clearly evident now and saving lives … while death rates skyrocket. Survivors and family are seeing it unfold rapidly before their eyes. No denying the risk, sacrifice and danger inherent in a health care professionals daily tasks as seen with corona virus. Even though hepatitis, hiv, tb, needle sticks, MRSA, VRE etc abound, corona virus brings the danger to the forefront as well as our lack of preparedness for such an onslaught. And health care workers are not alone. Grocery clerks, stockers, mailmen, firemen, police are all at risk. All of a sudden a voluntary military and baseball players are “not the only heroes” in a country dedicated to hero worship in some form or another. Now if we can get these new heroes paid properly for their risk, their importance to national infrastructure and security. And maybe a military style retirement for 20 years of service as a taxpayer of dedicated service to the nation.