As promised at the end of part 1, this second blog post is more of what could’ve been done rant while comparing it to the reality of what is happening. Again, if you think our current administration is handling this well – you probably won’t like what I have to say.
What I desperately wish would have happened is that we had a reliable leader who tried to get ahead of this pandemic. That our president would’ve taken the threat against our health more serious versus downplaying it and put in stay at home orders immediately!
Hospitals would have had the time to prepare, to educate their staff, to study what other countries are doing, to find what works and what doesn’t.
Hospitals could’ve stocked up on PPE. Instead some facilities exposed their frontline workers and created new rules on the fly about reusing a mask meant for one time use, for multiple days. This is assuming they provided staff with N95 masks. Expecting healthcare workers to enter a patient’s room without proper equipment is ridiculous, idiotic and UNSAFE for everybody.
The OR, procedure and PACU nurses with floor experience could’ve been retrained to inpatient units. Those without floor experience could’ve been trained to COVID 19 testing centers and performed screenings. We could’ve kept all hands on deck or at least on call and prepared. A “stay ready so you don’t have to get ready” mentality.
Instead a lot of nurses (myself included) were cancelled, laid off or furloughed. While the nurse to patient ratios continue to climb in some parts of the country. Nurses who were willing to work are now outcaste, unable to help their colleagues, feeling helpless or guilty because they can’t find work.
Instead these nurses are filing for unemployment and tirelessly applying to jobs and contracts only to be told we need recent (in the last 12 months) inpatient experience.
Instead hospitals are now paying extreme amounts of money for travel nurses. (No shade because I support every travel nurse getting to the bag and signing up to go into these contracts)!
In worst-case scenarios, scamming those same travel nurses to uproot and risks their health only to have their contract cancelled or pay significantly decreased upon arrival. For example, staffing companies were advertising $6,000 – $10,000/wk contracts in NYC. By the time nurses arrived in the city some contracts were already cancelled. They were left scrambling, as I explained in my last blog post, and contacting other companies to find a local contract because they already paid for housing. Only to find that same exact contract and hospital is once again available, but with a 40-60% decrease in pay.
Or maybe the contracts weren’t cancelled, but the travel nurses were being sent to a new unit with less than a day of training. This goes back to my point of nursing is not one size fit all. Imagine being an admitted patient in the ICU and the nurse taking care of you does not have the ICU or critical care experience to properly care for you.
Lastly, there is the outlandish expectation of staff to work 12-hour shifts – up to 21 days in a row, like the McCormick Place Contract in Chicago. The pay is high, but at what cost?
Personally, I can barely work one shift of overtime without feeling like I need a two week vacation on somebody’s beach.
Being a caregiver can get exhausting even to someone who is so in love with their job. Healthcare workers are not machines, they are humans who need proper rest to keep their immunity and mental health up.
If your staff is exposed and contact the virus who’s going to take care of these patients? I’ll wait.
I will admit, some of these stories are extreme and they might be the minority, but it does not change the fact it is happening.
Though it’s not surprising, it’s still heartbreaking to watch our health care system struggle. It’s embarrassing to see our government leaders put profit over lives.
So much of these consequences could’ve been avoided.
Hopefully we learn something from this so 100 years from now a similar situation can be handled with ease. Part 3 will wrap up my final experience about why I am no on the frontline.
“The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” Rafiki, Lion King 1994