When COVID-19 took hold on our society, many Nurses realized that it was "Go time." They knew that they would be expected to step up to the challenge and provide care to the masses. They accepted the challenge with grace while enduring some amazing physical and emotional hardships.
Now that the rough start has passed, we can look back and be amazed at some of the failures, mistakes, and hardships that Nurses were forced to endure.
If you are reading this and have endured these hardships, thank you for your service. Know that you are not alone when you feel overworked, unappreciated for your sacrifice, and fearful of your personal welfare. If you have not directly contributed to the control of this pandemic, rest assured that your contribution as a Nurse has been essential as well.
As a continuing education provider for Nurses, our organization has heard many of the achievements and horror stories that Nurses have endured during this pandemic. Many agree that is has been the most challenging time of their career.
It’s no surprise that facilities often take advantage of their Nurses. Unfortunately, this pandemic gave them another excuse to do so, even though they had to actually rely on the sacrifices of Nurses to carry them through these difficult times.
While more waves of infections may be on the way, our health care system and society are hopefully more prepared now. Nurses have hopefully seen the worst already and won’t have to endure the level of hardships that resulted from the first wave.
Infections and Deaths
The last update that the Center for Disease Control released concerning infections and deaths in health care personnel was on April 17, 2020. Between February 12 and April 9, there were 9,282 cases indicating that the patient was a health care worker, but only 780 of those reported that their only contact with a COVID-19 patient was in a health care setting. About 90% of those cases were not hospitalized. Unfortunately, 27 deaths resulted from those cases.
Health care workers were 3% of the 315,531 cases in the Unites States, but they accounted for 11% of the cases in states with better reporting of occupational status.
The death of fellow health care workers really made an impact on many Nurses. It forced them to realize that the virus could have taken any of them. One Nurse discussed how surreal it was to care for an Emergency Room Nurse who died of COVID-19 infection.
At the time this article was written, the virus was developing further. Yet, more recent data concerning health workers has been difficult to locate.
Unsafe Working Conditions
The most prominent complaint from Nurses during the pandemic was the scarcity of personal protective equipment. Many nurses were required to reuse their PPE, some were forced to purchase their own, and some were even told that they were not allowed to bring their own, even though there wasn’t enough provided at their job.
Medical workers pleaded adamantly on social media for help with PPE, and many organizations that typically were not associated with health care decided to help meet the demand. Our organization alone donated hundreds of masks to Nurses in need throughout the country. Other organizations retooled their manufacturing and gained the capability to manufacture masks. Even though some of those contributions were politicized by the media, it was great to see our communities supporting their Nurses.
Unfair Management and Hollow Promises
Even though the normal demands of a Nurse are often unbelievable, facility management began requiring even more of their Nurses to meet the demands of the pandemic. If a Nurse was unable to meet the demands, they were often bullied or their job was threatened. This resulted in many Nurses working extreme overtime in unsafe work environments.
Several Nurses said that their facility promised them workers’ compensation, short term disability, sick pay, and other benefits if they contracted COVID-19 while working. However, many of the facilities weaseled out of their promises by deciding that the infections were not the result of patient contact, even though the Nurses were constantly exposed to COVID-19 patients. As a result, these Nurses found themselves, quarantined, ill, and without income, simply because they chose to step up and help those in need.
Cancelled Contracts and Financial Ruin
While many Nurses found financial hardship as a result of exposure at their job, some were taken advantage of in other ways. Many Nurses who chose to travel to other areas that needed more help found themselves stuck with more financial burden than if they had stayed home. This is because many facilities and staffing companies were very indecisive about their course of action. After Nurses signed travel contracts and arrived at their assignment, many found out that they were no longer needed, or were only needed for a short amount of time. They had already incurred the expense of traveling, moving, and signing short-term leases for housing. When the facilities and agencies were approached to get these expenses repaid, the Nurses found out that they were on their own and that their contacts will not be honored. Unfortunately, the only course of action in this situation is legal action. Hopefully these Nurses can at least have their expenses paid. An unnecessary lawsuit is the last thing that should result when a Nurse was simply volunteering to help those in need.
Now that the initial rush has been managed, many hospital find themselves with plenty of empty beds. Since COVID-19 is still a threat, many people still have themselves quarantined. Local governments have streamlined the way infected patients are handled without visiting a hospital. This leaves the demand for Nurses much lower than normal, resulting in furloughs for many.
A Sense of Accomplishment
For many Nurses, despite all the unfairness and hardships, they experienced such a sense of accomplishment that they would do it again. Images posted on social media by some Nurses show them drenched in sweat from wearing heavy PPE and from running nonstop in understaffed units for ridiculous hours. Yet, their attitude was one of positivity because of the impact they made on those in need. They felt empowered to know that they stepped up and played such a major role when our society needed them most. Whether they receive the appreciation they deserve or not, they know that their contribution was essential.
Nurses have Proven their Value
It’s amazing to see that so many facilities and administrations continue to take advantage of the kindness of Nurses. It’s unfortunate to see that it takes a pandemic of historical scale to remind everyone of the sacrifices that Nurses make for our communities. Despite the lack of respect, Nurses accepted the challenge with grace and reminded everyone that they are truly the backbone of healthcare. Thank you Nurses for all you have done. You are our true heroes.
A New Option for Nurses
If you are ready for a change in your nursing career, there are some great options. While the actions of many facilities were disgusting, it is the unfortunate reality for Nurses. They sacrifice to help their patients, but must endure constant disrespect and mistreatment from their employers.
Even though Nurses were instrumental in protecting our society from a dangerous pandemic, and have constantly proven their vital role in healthcare, many are still enduring the same unfair working conditions, bullying, and lack of respect from facilities.
Many are confident that they fulfilled their duties, and they have decided to pursue other career paths in healthcare where they can ensure their own welfare. They have chosen to apply their medical expertise to the legal field. There, they can play an instrumental role in any case involving medical records. They receive great respect for their expertise and are able to continue helping people in need. For more details about this career path, visit here: Legal Nurse Consultant Certification