Taken from AFT Voices
By Sheryl Mount
We are now in the fourth significant surge of COVID-19, but there is no sense of urgency among people as they go about their daily lives. When I can get out and run my errands, I see people who aren’t taking precautions to protect themselves, and it’s frustrating because, inside the hospitals, health professionals are in crisis mode. People behave like they are over COVID-19, but we are overwhelmed because the pandemic is far from over. It’s like living in a parallel universe.
I can’t believe that after three COVID-19 surges, we are here again. When other nations were hit with omicron, that’s when everyone should have stepped back and taken precautions, but we were caught off guard again, and people were scrambling for tests and other provisions. The lack of preparedness is part of this alternate reality that people are living in.
One of the things we have to help us is the vaccine. The vaccine is there to keep us from getting seriously ill from COVID-19. The unvaccinated are basically rolling the dice that they will get sick or not. I hate that the vaccine has become so politicized, because it’s getting in the way of protecting people. We have to take the politics out of the vaccine and just look at the science.
When you turn on the television, most of the news stories about COVID-19 use the same recycled video footage from hospitals, because the journalist can’t get in to see what’s happening. But nurses and health professionals can tell you there are not enough of us to take care of the onslaught of patients in need of care.
This pandemic is shedding light on what’s been happening in the nursing profession for years. Many people leave the profession because of the working conditions; COVID-19 has just magnified the problem. The fight to boost nurses’ salaries has also been an issue for a long time. Many younger nurses have left hospitals for [traveling nurses] agency work. Now, you see hospitals offering bonuses to get people back into the hospitals and to work extra time and overtime.
You may have heard about traveling nurses making lots of money during the pandemic. Every nurse has thought about all the money that’s out there for us, myself included. But then reality sets in. The pay is insane, but it’s not enough. At the end of the day, no amount of money is worth the risk of working the extended hours under the conditions we are seeing now.
Everyone deserves to go into the hospital and be well treated, but that won’t happen if there are not enough nurses to care for patients. I hear people say that the spread of omicron will end the pandemic, and all I can do is shake my head because we have yet to learn the lessons from this pandemic.
Nurses have had enough, and you have to wonder how long it will be before the system is so broken that it just won’t be there for the people who need it. There’s a lot of work to do to fix the profession and the healthcare system. We are not heroes; we just want to do our jobs safely and professionally.
Sheryl Mount, RN, is president of Health Professionals and Allied Employees, Local 5105.