Burned out nurses are quitting in droves

It isn’t just the endless hours, separation from their families, stress, and heartbreak from watching patients die. What’s really breaking their spirit is how they’re treated by the profit-obsessed managers running our for-profit health care system.

They’re exploited:

“‘Covid has exacerbated all the problems that we know exist in a for-profit health care system,’ said Jean Ross, president of the National Nurses United, one of the country’s largest nurses unions. Before Covid-19, Ross said, nurses were increasingly told to ‘do more with less’ — cover more hospital beds, handle more patients and work longer hours. Employers pointed to the nationwide nursing shortage. … Burnout was the primary factor driving nurses to quit before the pandemic, according to a study published this month in the journal Health Policy.”

   They’re burned out:

“Many nurses have been working nonstop since the pandemic began almost one year ago. And although there’s more hope now as health care workers and their older, at-risk patients get vaccinated, most nurses still feel worn down, Zerwas said. ‘It’s this unrelenting grind,’ she said. “It’s hard to be in the middle of that … you feel like it’s never going to end.'”
   Those issues predated Covid-19; in 2017 alone, more than 400,000 nurses left the profession, a third of them for reasons like that. But when Covid-19 struck like a tidal wave, a new source of stress was layered on top of the old ones: Their welfare, health, and safety was disregarded by hospital managements:

   “In the pandemic’s early days, Denise Keeley, a military veteran and nurse of 40 years, was practically begging the managers at her Oklahoma City hospital for answers about how to protect herself and how Covid would affect her work. She says the answers never came.

   Keeley is 64 and has a heart condition … asked her manager to keep her off of Covid units. She said she filed a ‘reasonable accommodations’  request to avoid working with Covid patients that was never approved. Conditions were dire for nurses at her hospital …  she was never tested for Covid-19 on the job … she was told to make her mask ‘last as long as it could’ [and] wasn’t allowed to wear an N95 respirator, the most effective mask in preventing Covid-19 transmission, because those were reserved for physicians. ‘It was just frustrating, she told CNN. ‘The consideration for the staff just wasn’t there.’ …
   “Chao Smith was losing faith in the people leading her and in the institutions setting the rules while Covid-19 guidelines kept changing. … She finally quit in April. ‘Really, you cannot be forced to choose (between) your life and your job without people having your back,’ she said. … Keeley and Chao Smith said their workplaces didn’t do enough to keep them safe. The nurses association survey from December found many other nurses feel the same ….”
   Read story here.
   When something doesn’t work, you should ask why, then try to design a better system. The Covid-19 pandemic would’ve stressed any health care system. Yet the U.S. has fared worse than nearly all other countries. That suggests something’s wrong.
   It’s an article of faith among many Americans that capitalism and free markets always produce the best possible result, but if for-profit hospitals won’t even provide their Covid-ward nurses with PPE and face masks, it’s time to start questioning that assumption. Otherwise, when we need nurses in a future crisis, we may not have them.
   I have a more jaded view of contemporary American capitalism. One of the things wrong with it is that loyalty is a one-way street: Demanded, but not given in return. (Sound like a politician you’ve heard of?) I recall a neighbor who was “surplused” by a company he’d served for many years. He was dumbfounded. Yet, there’s nothing unusual about his story. By the 1990s, most U.S. corporate managements had ceased to feel any loyalty toward their loyal, long-serving, hardworking employees, who became just another expendable item on the expense sheet.
   And do I need to remind anyone that it was government money, not private investment, that fast-tracked and financed the development of Covid-19 vaccines, and is paying for their distribution and administration?  

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