Respect, Protect and Support All Nurses

By Debbie White

Emerson, NJ—As we observe Nurses Week 2022—May 6 to May 12—a week that the world has set aside to appreciate our nurses, it is worth pointing out that as vital as our nurses have been during this pandemic, this noble profession did not just deserve recognition during the pandemic. Nurses have always deserved our respect.  They also deserve to be protected and supported so our healthcare systems can continue to care for our communities when we are at our most vulnerable.

Nurses did their job caring for the infected, facing the unknown, putting their own lives at risk, and continuing to relive the pain and trauma through every surge of COVID over the past two years. They sacrificed and many have suffered greatly; physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Many nurses have been traumatized and have left the workforce, some retired early and many migrated out of hospitals, greatly exacerbating a staffing shortage that existed prior to the pandemic.  Some became ill with long lasting after-effects, and some died.  As a result, the profession is now in such a critical shortage, that immediate intervention must ensue.

This Nurses week we urge employers to improve working conditions, so nurses stay at the bedside. These conditions are not new concepts, yet the urgency to implement them is needed more than ever. As a union leader, I applaud nurses who continue to speak up to demand improved safety protocols such as infectious disease and violence prevention programs.  We know the answer is to improve working conditions.  But any bedside hospital nurse will tell you the most significant way to recruit and retain staff is to set safe staffing ratios.

This is a warning call. If we do not fix this problem, not only nurses, our healthcare institutions and patients will suffer tremendously.  Many studies show the direct link of short staffing to patient outcomes. we must do more to create better work environments for our nurses and all healthcare workers to ensure we can recruit and retain workers and overcome this staffing crisis.

If this staffing crisis in healthcare continues unabated, admission to a hospital will be risky business.

Debbie White, RN, is the president of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE).

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