Nurses, why are you surprised?!
When a community treats its nurses like it treats its fast food workers, this is what happens. I mean, they don’t wanna flip the burgers, but they’ll be first to complain and ridicule the people who won’t. They desire someone else to take the orders with a smile, work the holidays and weekends, yet stay silent about the wage that isn’t appropriate to the task. You won’t catch a senator running the burger joint drive-thru anymore than you’ll spot them cleaning someone’s granny’s butt, yet they will make the decisions about how it should be done, or how it should be compensated. So, why are you surprised?
Healthcare has become a business of customer service, with profits based on satisfaction scores, but the difference in us and say, a department store, is we also are distracted by the tiny hindrance of keeping people alive while we smile, in between the deliveries of turkey sandwiches and warm blankets. No other career will you be expected to cater to the public’s fancy in such a palate-pleasing manner while also being held legally liable for a simple, human mistake that could end in catastrophic harm. In other words, make sure the customer is always right, but also make sure that you are. In healthcare you can lose your job for customer dissatisfaction, but you can also lose your home and livelihood if your math calculations aren’t up to par. Maybe that’s why we’re surprised. Hmmm.
Twenty years I spent at the critical care bedside, giving my everything to my patients. And while I experienced seasons of burnout, I never stopped loving it. I love it still. But I couldn’t do it anymore. In November I took a 50% pay cut (as in my hourly pay was cut in half), for the same amount of fulltime hours, but in an environment that was less stressful than direct patient care. So, what led me there after 20 years?!
I tried to be nice and say it was things like an aging back, and while it’s true that 20 years of turning obese men to clean their bottom has destroyed my spine, that wasn’t the main reason I had to step away. It’s not the main reason we see a shortage in healthcare across the board. Heck, we never minding wiping pee and poop off people who didn’t appreciate us for it. It was the fact that you, the politicians, the administrators, the voting public at large, don’t appreciate what we sacrifice for our communities. Y’all, that hurts.
The past two years were like a knife in my back from a longtime friend. I saw the public as a whole, who had no problem before messaging me late at night for advice about their sick kid, suddenly decide I had no idea what I was talking about. They trusted me to take care of their father after open heart surgery, but they rolled their eyes at my opinions on a pandemic.
We said, “we’re drowning!”
They replied, “the numbers are a lie!”
We begged them to wear a mask, stay home, or even, God forbid, consider a scientifically proven vaccine.
They laughed. They shared memes making fun of the science they had trusted us to treat them with for decades, and they even used our own faith against us. That probably hurt the most. As a woman of faith, personally, who loves Jesus and people, I couldn’t understand how my service to others in love suddenly meant so little. Ok, I’ll admit it; I was surprised.
Those like myself, working in the ICU, under horrible conditions, to work tirelessly and fruitlessly, combating a virus we couldn’t defeat, were forgotten.
I remember reaching out to family and friends afar, expressing the pain of what I was witnessing, and it was met with monotone, false sympathies.
“Oh, I didn’t realize it was that bad. I’m so sorry.”
“Meanwhile, let’s remember what’s really important here. This is all a hoax to take away our freedoms and religion.”
So, while we hurt, they swept our lamentations under a rug, shining the spotlight instead on political platforms.
In the midst of our distress, many frontline workers fell away, and to boost the bodies required to fight a pandemic, they increased our compensation. Finally! I always hated it took half a million people dying to prove we’re worthwhile.
But now the dust somewhat settles. Remote workers return to the office, mask mandates are removed, school is somewhat normal operating procedure, and Johnny Q. Public (or politician or administrator) remembers what they’re paying the exhausted frontline, while conveniently forgetting what brought us to this point. Why are we surprised?!
Why are we surprised that the people who complain about the wait at the drive-thru, while thoroughly refusing to work at the drive-thru for minimum wage, are the same people complaining about the wait at their local ER?! They’re not gonna wait tables for pennies anymore than they’ll hold life and death in their hands for what you make as a loan officer or insurance underwriter (who make about the same as a nurse with 15-20 years experience)! In other words, they want to ridicule the fast food workers and waitresses who refuse to serve them for a wage you can’t even pay your increasing rent and grocery bill with, calling them lazy and entitled. In the same vein, they want to call us money-hungry, accuse us of taking advantage of a national staffing shortage, when all we want is to finally be recognized for the pain we’ve endured.
While most everyone stayed home in pj’s, we went to work. When people feared an unknown virus, we faced it head on. When you wanted our advice, you took it, but when it contradicted your politics, you shamed us. When there are not enough servers at your favorite restaurant, you end up having to wait a long time. Inconvenience. When there are not enough servants at the hospital bedside, your lifesaving healthcare is delayed. Death. Death that we will be held liable for. And you are surprised we don’t want a cap on our salary?!
Don’t take something we love and guilt us into killing ourselves physically and mentally for a salary that won’t even begin to dig us out of the legal bills we are crushed under after staffing shortages hasten us to make a mistake. Just don’t.
I couldn’t do it anymore. I had to leave the hospital bedside, the critical care nursing I still love. Even a wage that blessed my family so much, wasn’t enough to compensate me in such an exhausting environment. The thing is, there are a lot of nurses like me, mentally and physically done after these past few years, no matter the compensation.
How do you think it will go if they cutback the pay for those who remain?!
Will any of us be surprised when there are no bedside nurses left?
Chew on that.