EDITORIAL: U.S. Nurses Are on the Front Line — Why Aren’t They Being Better Protected?

America’s nurses took to Capitol Hill earlier this week, led by the leaders of the unions representing 230,000 of their colleagues nationwide to send a message to Donald Trump, Congress and the health care system.

What did they say and why were they protesting?

“Our members are dying. We demand protections now!” they said.

As COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket in the U.S., the nurses’ unions across the U.S. have ramped up efforts and joined forces, demanding hospitals and the government to immediately provide them with optimal personal protective equipment, including N95 respirators or higher. Their demands come at a time made even direr given the fact that nurses are now dying from the coronavirus.

The numbers reported continue to rise with an estimated 60 across the U.S. having already losing their lives but more are expected to succumb to the disease without changes.

They now wonder, “how many more nurses have to die before the richest country in the world will act to protect us, so we can protect our patients?” They further maintain that while they’re among those who stand on the front line, that they are now “bear[ing] the full brunt of a health care system rendered dysfunctional after relentless funding cuts for public health, while generating obscene profits for corporate interests.”

We stand behind our nurses who remain the nation’s largest health care professionals with 3.8 million registered nurses. In a few days, on May 6, America will celebrate National Nurses Day — an annual observance that will mark the beginning of National Nurses Week. Their leaders say they want — rather need — several things: safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios; protections from an epidemic of violence; the power of their collective voice; and Medicare for all.

But more than that, they deserve to have their months-long demands to their employers and elected officials answered and fulfilled – to ensure safe workplaces that will protect nurses, their patients and the public, instead of sending nurses into battle – “to the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic with bandanas, scarves and trash bags as protection.”

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