Nurses for America is asking Congress to listen to nurses and renew federal COVID funding. Leaders from Nurses for America, Eileen Gordon and Teri Mills, have co-authored this guest blog post. Thank you Eileen, Teri, and your grassroots nursing organization for sharing this important perspectives piece:
Submitted by: Eileen Kilbane Gordon MSN, PNP, RN and Teri Mills MS, RN
Nurses have been voted as the most trusted profession in America by the Gallup poll for 20 consecutive years. We are in community clinics, at the bedside in hospitals, and in people’s homes. Americans trust what we have to say yet all too often we are not asked for our opinions or considered for publication even when we write on behalf of the public health, the nursing profession, or health care policies. For the past two years, nurses have struggled to keep up with the pace and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the next 24 months, it is anticipated that 34% of practicing nurses will leave the profession due to burnout, lack of proper staffing ratios, unavailable quality PPE, and inadequate prevention initiatives such as poor ventilation that put patients and nurses in danger. That should set off alarm bells for all of us, as this number accounts for a third of the entire nursing workforce. Can you even imagine what it would be like to enter an acute care facility and there were no nurses to take care of you or your loved ones?
Tim Higgins, a registered nurse who worked in a hospital-based leadership role two years ago in Bronx, NY, lost his job for standing alongside his peers when they demanded sufficient PPE to protect themselves. Two weeks after Higgins was let go, a former colleague died of COVID-19. Matt Kilboy, RN, worked in Ohio with the Veterans Health Administration. He was responsible to deploy staff and resources from one hot spot to another. “It was hard,” said Kilboy, “because there was a national shortage of materials.” Kilboy is now running for Congress to bring the perspective of nursing into the halls of Congress. Nurses know we must raise our voices now before the next pandemic surge when there may be too few nurses left to practice.
Many nurses volunteered on the frontline and witnessed firsthand how funding from the American Rescue Plan helped our nation recover from COVID-19. Nurse educator and member of the Medical Reserve Corps, Teri Mills RN, from Oregon, volunteered in dozens of vaccine clinics targeted to serve the BIPOC community in the county she lives in. Mills witnessed a high number of families, particularly those of color, who would have been unable to be vaccinated if this care was not available free of charge and close to where they live and work.
Despite evidence that our county is beginning to turn the corner-case numbers have dropped, fewer patients are in the hospital, test positivity rates are lower, and masks are no longer required in most indoor settings, nurses fear we may be heading towards a national catastrophe. Cases are surging in Asia and Europe with Omicron BA.2 and already this new variant is rapidly spreading. We’ve seen this pattern before, only this time Congress has decided not to renew federal COVID funding, at least not in the immediate future. Unlike nurses, who act expeditiously when we sense a patient is in crisis, Congress is dragging its feet. The results are dire. Free testing and treatments, including monoclonal antibody therapy and antiviral medications will no longer be available to the roughly 28 million Americans who are uninsured. The White House announced this week that funds have run out for a 4th vaccine dose for all Americans. The list goes on. We still do not have an approved vaccine for children under 5 years old. Funding for research is paramount to identify potent mutations that may escape protection from current vaccines. Roughly half a billion vaccine doses are still needed worldwide to stop transmission.
Nurse Practitioner Eileen Kilbane Gordon, Co-Captain of Ohio Nurses for America, says “her family is split between Democrats and Republicans. But they stand united when it comes to fighting COVID-19 and finding their way back to being together again.” Gordon urges Congress “to be united as well.”
It is up to everyone of us to do our part in ending this pandemic. That includes nurses, the Biden administration, our elected officials, and yes, you, the individual citizen. What will your contribution be and what story will you tell future generations of your family? For us, that story is simple. Congress, please pay attention to the experts and America’s most trusted profession-your nurses.
Nurses for America is a grassroots, all volunteer organization. For more information- http://nursesforamerica.net