#COVID-19 · politics

Dear Mayor DeBlasio, a response to your op-ed about drafting medical professionals…Truly yours, a nurse.

Having worked in the emergency department, which is essentially the red-headed stepchild of a hospital, I already know that people treat ED’s like crap until they need one. No one make massive donations to emergency departments like they do cancer centers.

We are unseen heroes.

Until COVID. Now all of the sudden people have taken an interest in our critical care skills. They are hard skills to learn. I felt like it took me a year to become a real nurse in the emergency department. Longer to master IV’s on a coding child with parents screaming in my ear. Longer to recognize the signs of a child who can wait five hours versus some one who can barely wait five minutes to be seen. I left the emergency department proficient.

I saved some kid’s lives along the way. I started a lot of IV’s. I pounded on chests with no heartbeat and I breathed air into lungs that could not breathe for themselves.

In six and a half years I was exposed to H1N1, Influenza B, Tuberculosis, Pertussis, Hepatitis C, and meningitis. More than once. I was kicked in the ribs the week of my wedding. I spent the week of my wedding dealing with bruised ribs and worker’s comp.

I carried with me the grief of parents and the sights of dying children.

I saw my co-worker’s brutally assaulted by patients.

Throughout those six and a half years I never had the support of management. I had to fight to get a Pertussis vaccine covered by the hospital after my third exposure. I had to send about ten e-mails and make multiple phone calls to get worker’s compensation to cover the emergency department bill that occupational health made me go to when I was kicked in the ribs. During H1N1 we had a shortage of masks and gowns and gloves. We were told to put up and shut up or be fired.

We never received raises consistently and we never got paid more during the H1N1 pandemic for risking our own health. Our hospital did not cover any costs incurred when one of our employees got sick with influenza or H1N1.

The day I left the ED I left my family, my co-workers, but I stepped into a new life as an advanced practice nurse where I could leave behind the crap that came with knowing some of the best people I’ve met in my life.

I’ve been reading the articles and watching the stories and hearing from my own friends of nurses shamed and scorned for speaking out when we don’t have protection or PPE and I know I made the right decision back in 2013 when I walked away from the emergency department. Hospital management did not have our back then and it does not have our backs now.

I’ve been approached by the hospital I work at per diem to put my critical care experience to use. My brain and my skills are valuable right now. But they don’t want to pay me adequately. My skills are desperately needed and I am deserving of pay equivalent to risking my life.

I unapologetically value my life at more than just 45$-65$ an hour with no hazard pay or differential. As should all nurses.

Mayor DeBlasio, you implore healthcare provider’s to come forward and just put their lives on the line. Yet we know that on a good day hospitals and management don’t have our backs. They have their own. You have offered no incentive for any nurse or MD to step forward and risk their life. Risk time away from their families. Risk infecting our families.

Pay us. Adequately. Forgive all loans for all medical professionals who respond. Partner with state colleges in NY, CT, NJ, MA and offer free master’s degrees or bachelor’s degrees once this is all over for nurses to advance their education.

Guarantee PPE. I’m sure you’re sick of hearing about PPE. But I said recently to a hospital employee if you could guarantee me a new N95, face shield, and full body PPE I’d sign up today. But they couldn’t. I have kids. I have a family. I am the sole financial provider right now. I’m not risking my life for hospital systems that haven’t risked anything for us.

I can tell you nurses and MD’s are not soldiers. We didn’t go into healthcare to risk our lives. But the longer you work in critical care the more you realize our lives are risked daily. Without a pandemic. And you see how little front line employees mean to the hospital system.

We are not flooding into the frontlines because you have not guaranteed us free healthcare should we contract COVID-19 while “volunteering” for you.

Most of us have deductible plans. Who is going to pay our six thousand dollar family deductible if I’m in the ICU unable to work because I heroically answered your call, worked the front lines without appropriate PPE, and contracted COVID-19? Are you Mayor DeBlasio going to guarantee free healthcare for acute COVID-19 cases in all your healthcare workers and also free mental healthcare long term for the PTSD that will inevitably ensue in all your front line workers watching people die? Because on your website and upon pressing by the media the response was “Well most of our volunteers have health insurance,” That is NOT good enough Mayor DeBlasio.

You say to draft healthcare providers. Soldiers receive college tuition, healthcare at top hospitals in the country, free housing, adequate pay, and many other benefits that should come with being a soldier. You are asking us to soldier up without offering us any reason to do so other than we just should because you are desperate.

Until hospitals and cities and governments start incentivizing healthcare providers by paying us adequately for risking our lives, providing long term financial ease by canceling all student debt for first responders, and guaranteeing free healthcare for any COVID related exposure illnesses that occur during employment and emergency response to a pandemic…then you can write all the op-ed’s you want trying to appeal to healthcare providers (especially those of us with critical care experience)…but no one is going to answer that call.

Many of us have been there. We’ve worked front lines before. We know the risks and we know hospitals and management don’t have our backs and in this case we also know there aren’t enough masks to have our front.

Prove me otherwise and then maybe you’ll get the people you need.

I’ll summarize for you- Pay me. Pay my loans. Offer free education afterward. Free housing and food during. Free healthcare during and after for anything related to COVID-19. Offer life insurance policies. And for God’s sake. Provide me with adequate PPE- not sterilized, not re-used- I’m talking full body suits. Look at some pictures from China.

Those are my conditions for re-entering the front lines. I hope every nurse demands the same.

 

 

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