Nurses and Healthcare Professionals Take an Oath; Politicians Should as Well

I do not need to tell you that the past few weeks have been horrific. Many of us have been completely shattered following the tragedy in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. I realize that the tragedies of the past few weeks compound the personal struggles some may be enduring.
My heart goes out to the loved ones of the victims, in Buffalo and Uvalde, and the Black and Latino community. The Tops market in Buffalo is close to ECMC, and many employees live in that neighborhood. My thoughts are also with Black and Brown NYSNA members and their loved ones who again must deal with the trauma of being targeted, while systemic racism and white supremacy flourish openly in our society.

What Next?

In times such as these, it is understandable to question where go from here. I am not sure we should rush from this moment. Mass shootings are a regular part of life, and it is beyond time to question why. To date, there have been 214 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2022 — including 27 in schools. That some of these atrocities have occurred in schools, which are already under-resourced or in communities that are under-resourced, adds to the trauma. Regardless of our individual political positions, we can all agree that no one deserves to enter a grocery store and contemplate whether they’ll survive. No one deserves to drop their children at school and second-guess whether they’ll be safe.

We Need Action

We have circled the block time and time again. And now we’re at a crossroad. We cannot move forward with confidence by accepting the status quo. Each mass shooting adds to the trauma  —  not just for survivors but for first responders. Nurses, doctors, law enforcement and everyone who has witnessed what an assault weapon does to flesh will never be able to unsee the horror of a mass shooting. I shutter to think what healthcare professionals as well as victims’ families will need to help them heal and rebuild. One could be forgiven for asking whether rebuilding is even possible.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, nurses have frequently been on the front lines, helping communities stare down one crisis after another. We are sick of watching people die  —  from COVID-19 and gun violence. We are sick of sharing thoughts and prayers, understanding that such sentiments will not bring back those we have lost. We are sick of being the only ones reporting to duty, even as some elected leaders perpetually call off.

As we ponder next steps, there is a lot that we do not know. But we do know that inaction is not an option. Researchers, gun violence experts and persons who have dedicated their lives to reducing shootings have advocated for years for policymakers to fund and implement proven community-based strategies that dramatically reduce gun violence. Community violence intervention (CVI) strategies narrowly target the tiny number of individuals who are at high risk for shooting and address the mental health needs of would-be shooters. CVI strategies have saved thousands of lives and billions of dollars. Polling also demonstrates that the majority of gun owners support government investments in those strategies.

We Are All Connected

Many of us intrinsically understand that we are connected and that what impacts one impacts us all. Living in a society where innocent children can be killed shortly after a school awards program or where shoppers can be targeted for doing something as mundane as picking up dinner or where worshippers must look over their shoulder affects us all. While we will each process these tragedies differently, these events change us as individuals and as communities. They erode our sense of safety, cause us to question our neighbors and friends, and deplete our mental and physical energy.

Remembering the Victims

In this moment, I am holding space for those who lost loved ones as well as the doctors, nurses, healthcare workers and surgeons who were at the hospital receiving and caring for those who were mortally wounded. I am especially sensitive to the fact that it seems nurses and healthcare professionals seldom receive breaks. Throughout the pandemic, our members cared for patients, community members and our families with love and devotion. We need change, for the people we love but also for ourselves. Our nation cannot continue asking us to show up even as it refuses to do so.

Nurses and other healthcare professionals have an oath and take it seriously. Elected leaders should similarly have oaths and should be forced to live by it and up to it. This moment can ill afford anything else.

While we will each process these tragedies differently, these events change us as individuals and as communities. They erode our sense of safety, cause us to question our neighbors and friends, and deplete our mental and physical energy.”

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