Nurses in the Real World of For-Profit Medicine

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      As the nation once again encourages nurses to soldier on at their posts, the gap between the saccharine rhetoric of Nurses’ Week and the grim reality of nurses’ work during the pandemic is even more glaring – and galling – than ever.  For the past nineteen months, nurses have experienced the consequences of hospitals’ short- term pursuit of profit and our nation’s failure to attend to even the barest necessities of preparedness for a predictable public health emergency.   In hospitals across the country, nurses have begged and pleaded for the kind of personal protective equipment (PPE) that would make them safe on the job.  In response, hospitals have fired or disciplined nurses who dared to speak out to the media, or even to their own hospital administration.  Since the pandemic began, nurses have begged for more staff to help them on wards and ICUs bursting with desperately ill and dying patients.  Instead of responding positively, even some hospitals who received federal bailout funds have furloughed nurses to save money.  While hospitals have lauded nurses for their heroism, some have even denied them sick pay or time off to recover from side effects of Covid-19 vaccines.  Perhaps the only good thing to come out of this pandemic is that the media has suddenly recognized that, oh my goodness, nurses actually do something useful in our healthcare system and have included nurses in the coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic.  All one can say is better late than never.

      Meanwhile, in the real world, not all nurses are content to be self-sacrificing angels of mercies or heroes willing to be healthcare martyrs.  All over the country nurses are fighting to make sure hospital staff get needed personal protective equipment and safe staffing.

      In Portland, Maine the Maine State Nurses Association/ National Nurses United (NNU) scored a huge win in union elections at the Maine Medical Center.  In Asheville, North Carolina, the NNU won another major victory at the for-profit HCA Mission Hospital.  In Washington State, the Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), along with SEIU Healthcare 1199 and UFCW 21 won landmark legislation to assure that nurses have guaranteed breaks on the job and are not forced to do mandatory overtime.  The WSNA has also fought for   adequate staffing and personal protective equipment. And in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) is using Nurses’ Week as a platform to protest worsening conditions in the Bay State’s hospitals.

      Support them…the live you save may be your own.

      “Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”
      ~Samuel Clemens

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