Honoring the frontline

Our members helped save the lives of tens of thousands of New Yorkers infected with the COVID-19 virus. You entered your hospitals knowing that by that very act you risked exposure to the deadly virus.

The “Parade of Heroes” in New York City on July 7 was an opportunity for healthcare workers to feel a connection with the people that matter most — your patients. Some nurses felt that participating in the Parade of Heroes was an opportunity to show that they survived this horrifying year of pandemic. That can be an important part of beginning to heal.

Tangible, concrete improvements

Yet as much as our members deserve to be honored for their service and sacrifice, what we are calling for are tangible, concrete improvements. Everyone has experienced the trauma of the pandemic individually, but many have not been provided the support needed to recover from it. This must be a top priority.

From the very outset of winter 2020, federal authorities did not put in place adequate resource planning and distribution. This was an utter failure, with catastrophic consequences. How many times have we called for the PPE needed to meet scientific standards? (See p. 5 on the ongoing shortage of N95s.) Why were we denied a seat at the table, when management continued to put revenue ahead of patient care? At what price do they set patients’ lives? Nurses and other healthcare workers?

Coming up short

The trauma afflicted by this institutional betrayal affected healthcare workers around the world — New York was hit very hard. The COVID pandemic undeniably and tragically continues in many healthcare settings. Thirty-six NYSNA members succumbed from the virus and hundreds infected continue to suffer serious ailments.

To truly honor frontline workers there must be transparency in a process to fix an ailing system. Acknowledging the “mistakes” that often seemed motivated by reigning in costs and putting the demands of the leaders of healthcare industry — including seven figure compensation packages — ahead of the welfare of frontline healthcare workers is a must.

Government and regulatory agencies are responding, but to date they are coming up short. They have yet to fully acknowledge their responsibilities, address systemic problems and institute changes to protect and support our members’ sacrifices, as well as those of other essential workers. What does that mean? Remuneration, protection, long-term medical care, workers comp and more.

Instituting mandatory vaccination policies without the proper infection control and staffing practices, for which we have been advocating since the inception of the pandemic, adds insult to injury. It demonstrates that the industry is still cherry-picking the least expensive and more “convenient” science to follow instead of comprehensive protection for us, our patients and communities.

For healthcare workers to recover and heal, we need real action for our “heroes” — their safety and economic, physical and mental health needs now and into the future. We need to listen to the frontline to identify and meet the resource needs they desperately need.

Nurses suffer a moral injury when they are denied the resources and authority needed to uphold the professional standards which it is their sworn duty to practice by. Patients deserve excellent care, unachievable without sufficient resources.

Equity is our goal

Our goals are about equity in our hospitals and in the communities we care for. It starts with equity in compensation for all essential and excluded workers whose sacrifices have been all too real. We need a just recovery for all communities disproportionately affected by this crisis.

You are the most trusted professionals in the nation. The time is long since passed that officials and managers listen to the nurses.

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