Where do I begin? Maybe at the beginning.
Let’s start with the degradation and devaluation of nurses across this country.
For decades, I lived the devaluing of nurses. Daily huddles from our nurse managers, ER nurses, ICU nurses, and behavioral health nurses. Emails and huddles about downsizing. Nurse-patient ratios. Decreasing nursing staff and increasing patients. ICU nurses typically had a 2:1 ratio and, depending on the patient’s acuity, a 1:1 ratio. But as years went by, we watched our nursing world become increasingly unsafe. Decreasing our staff because we were told: “For the sake of the budget.”
We watched the much-needed and valued CNAs and technicians disappear. Our EKG/secretaries disappear with less than a two-week notice.
The degradation and devaluation of nurses.
We also watched the increase in CEO salaries in the millions per year, not including their perks. The secrecy of “bonus checks” to our managers. The hospital board members receiving their financial bonus perks also. Every upper management padding their pockets as they rode on the backs of nurses.
While we worked to keep patients alive. 12 to 14 hours a day. Rarely a 30-minute break. And rarely even a 15-minute break. The “tripling up” assignments. The dangerously unsafe assignments. The badgering and micromanage of managers. No matter what we did, how long we worked, Tripling our assignments; we were bad and awful and had to do better. Better … or else we would pay the consequences. The threats. The degradation. The devaluation. Of us.
And then COVID happened. And then Delta happened. And with the mass refusal of receiving COVID vaccinations across our country, our ERs and ICUs filled up. Overfilled. Massive admissions of unvaccinated Covid patients desperately seeking to breathe. Desperately seeking ER and ICU admission.
And throughout these next two years, our ICU beds became scarce. It has become a vicious cycle. No ICU beds. No ICU/ER nurses. Ambulances and medics and paramedics backed up. Four-hour waits for a 911 call. Our health care system has become clogged and failing.
And along with this crisis comes the emerging need for ICU nurses. For ER nurses. For respiratory therapists. Suddenly we are valued. And needed. And in high demand.
Suddenly, an ICU/ER nurse can make $5,000 to $10,000 per week with a travel agency.
And throughout the years of physical and verbal abuse trickled down from CEOs to our managers, we fled for higher ground.
The staff members that stayed on board with their hospitals (without going to travel nursing) have not been compensated.
And a new degradation has begun.
An ICU or ER staff nurse making $30 to $40 per hour standing and working next to a travel nurse making $5,000 or more per week.
And hospitals not honoring the nurses that stayed onboard but rewarding the travel nurses.
Is there an end in sight?
When COVID potentially winds down, will we teach CEOs, board members, upper management that we demand respect?
That we are college-educated professionals?
Will COVID change the face of nurses throughout our country?
Time will only tell if lessons will be learned.
The greed of CEOs and upper management is catching up with them.
Nurses are realizing and demanding their worth.
And I stand tall for all of the nurses who demand their respect and their worth.
Debbie Moore-Black is a nurse who blogs at Do Not Resuscitate.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com