By Samantha Karam, Staff Writer, and Alec Stone, ONS Public Affairs Director
From Front Lines to Picket Lines: Nurses Protest PPE Shortage
On April 21, 2020, a handful of nurses protested outside the White House to urge the president to respond to the critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE)—and other nurses around the country have been speaking out as well.
Being exposed to the virus on every shift makes nurses and other essential healthcare professionals vulnerable to infection, especially without sufficient PPE. This protest raises awareness of the sacrifices nurses make, including their own health and well-being, and the importance of advocating for additional protection through healthcare policy.
On April 21, 2020, the New York Times, published an opinion piece that raises serious concerns about nurses' ability to fight for issues like availability of personal protective equipment without the fear of retaliation.
“Many hospitals have instituted gag orders to make it clear that publicly advocating for safer working conditions could lead to losing one’s job—and as Nicholas Kristof and others have demonstrated, dozens have already been punished,” the opinion piece states. “(Nurses) don’t want to lose their jobs, but they also don’t want to lose their lives.”
Advocacy is critical and cannot be stifled. Read more about ONS's advocacy efforts during COVID-19.
ONS Member Sheds Light on COVID-19 Disparities
Health disparities have become more pronounced because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, ONS member Janice Phillips, RN, PhD, wrote in an April 19, 2020, opinion article published in the Hill.
“In Chicago approximately 72% of the city’s deaths due to COVID-19 involved African Americans, a group that makes up 30 percent of the city’s total population,” Phillips said. “African Americans are six times more likely to die from the novel coronavirus when compared with their white counterparts in Chicago.”
Other cities reported similar findings.
Phillips raises concern about the underlying issues to uneven health care in minority communities nationwide, such as lack of access to care and excess burden of comorbidity.
As the United States moves forward during and after COVID-19, nurses have opportunities to change the system for the better through continually advocating for reform.
Nursing Home Worker Talks Struggles and Fears
Andrea Leach, a certified nursing assistant in a Pennsylvania nursing home, discussed her concerns and reformed care strategies for the facility’s older adult residents during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in an April 16, 2020, interview on MSNBC.
Leach said that the nursing home has no reported cases of COVID-19, but she fears what would happen if a staff or resident were to contract the virus because the facility lacks adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We’re a very healthy facility, but there are a lot of cases in our sister facility,” she said. “We need the PPE to make sure we don’t bring it into these fragile folks.”
Leach called on the government to step up and provide more assurance and protection to healthcare workers and their patients.
“Our government has to step up,” Leach said. “Our unions been out there fighting for all workers to be protected since this thing started.”