As a nurse, my hospital’s leaders frighten me more than Covid-19 – STAT – By Jaclyn O’Halloran – May 6, 2020
This situation is the result of the financial takeover of our healthcare. When every action must be justified in terms of the “bottom line”, patients are only important as long as they need profitable medical services.
When I started the shift, a trained intensive care unit nurse was crying in the supply closet. She was overwhelmed and anxious, hadn’t worked on her familiar unit in weeks, and had been told that her next shift would be an overnight one — and she had no choice in the matter.
Most shifts start with nurses crying. Most shifts end that way too.
The number of patients who have fallen in this unit has risen exponentially in the past two weeks due to lack of training of outpatient nurses.
I wonder if the patients know their nurses are overwhelmed, and that many of them are scared they’ll make a deadly mistake.
“Everyone is out of their comfort zone, just hang in there,” we’re told.
These workers have been rushing full speed nonstop for days and weeks to treat an endless stream of patients they’ve been arbitrarily assigned by some impersonal and ruthlessly efficient hospital scheduling/workflow software, yet, they keep showing up for their shifts.
Minimizing these efforts as merely “out of their comfort zone” shows an arrogant disrespect for our literally life-saving healthcare workers.
Doctors have been instructed not to enter patients’ rooms unless they must as a way to minimize their exposure to the virus that causes Covid-19 while nurses go from one room to the next, medicating, bathing, turning, and comforting their patients without changing their uncomfortable personal protective equipment, since supplies are limited.
And executives fly their private jets to private islands…
This work can take hours. It is not uncommon for nurses to go all day without drinking water or eating because that would mean removing our protective gear.
During one of my shifts, a doctor at my hospital posted several TikToks he made while sitting at the nurses’ station of a busy Covid-19 unit as nurses whispered words of encouragement to patients clinging to life supported by ventilators.
“We hear your concerns, but there’s nothing we can do,” doesn’t reassure or encourage us.
That has become an often-used dismissive phrase saying, “we hear you making unhappy noises”, but now that we’ve acknowledged hearing you, get back to work – there’s nothing we want to do (though we certainly could) about your concerns.
Excuses from hospital administrators seem to have punctuated every shift for the past six weeks. The praise and applause from hospital leadership only go so far.
I can read in my co-workers’ faces and hear from the stories they tell that the biggest danger we face is not Covid-19. It’s the hospital’s administration
Leadership is failing us, even as we stand firm in not failing our patients. We care for your loved ones, Covid-19 or not
The narrative is simple. Nursing, and nurses, are not valued. It’s a shame, and maybe even a deadly shame, that hospital leaders don’t care about nurses like we care for our patients.
Author: Jaclyn O’Halloran is a registered nurse who works in a hospital in Massachusetts.