As a RN with decades of experience at various nursing disciplines; I find myself conflicted as I watch my fellow health professionals, in particular nurses, protesting outside their respective hospitals. I fully support nurses who advocate for the patients and for themselves. It’s enshrined in our Nurse Practice Act – we, the nurse, are the patient’s advocate and we can’t cede that responsibility to another “agency”.
During this healthcare crisis our nurses claim to find that they’re lacking the appropriate protection to safeguard their patients, their families, and most importantly themselves. In order to bring light on these issues nurses have taken to the streets to protest with their state goal being to bring pressure to bear on hospital administrators to provide the appropriate safety materials, such as N95 masks, face shields, and other PPE. In turn, many of these same hospital administrators have claimed that these materials have been made available – so why the disconnect?
My experience has taught me that all too often when nurses claim that their concerns are being ignored that it happens for two reasons. The first, administration is either not listening to the nurses or ignoring the nurses’ concerns. The second, the nurses are failing to use their chain of command and thus there’s an appearance that administration isn’t being responsive to the nurses’ concerns. The first garners a great deal of press on behalf of the “beleaguered” nurse, and the second just reinforces the failure of the nursing staff to appropriately use their chain of command – which leads to the same sad result – a feeling that administration isn’t listening. One of my favorite things to do whenever I go to a hospital either to work as a nurse, consultant, or patient is to ask the nurses around me to tell me the name of their Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) and you’d be surprised how many can’t tell me that individual’s name.
COVID-19 has shown us the many weak points in our healthcare network. It’s also shown us that our healthcare community is willing to answer the call to serve in many cases putting aside their own needs. However, I’d like to recommend that the next time nurses chose to protest the failure of their hospital administration to provide appropriate PPE that those same nurses aren’t photographed failing to practice social distancing or not wearing face masks while outside – this somewhat undercuts their claim that requests for safety protocols are being ignored when they can’t practice basic safety protocols during their protest.