Thursday, Jan. 13, nurses in Washington, D.C rallied outside Howard University Hospital because of “unsafe working conditions.” These unsafe working conditions include nurses having to work while being sick and trying to take care of too many patients because of understaffing. Often, nurses do not have all of the medical equipment they need and have COVID-19 and “clean” patients. This leads to the exposement of clean patients even with the best intentions and procedures in mind. As a result, many nurses have left the field for fear of losing their licenses and personal safety.
In the past year and a half, there has been a growing gap between the pay of agency nurses and the pay for staff nurses. Travel nurse pay has never been higher, averaging about 2k per week compared to 1k per week pre-pandemic. There have been ideas proposed by both states and the Federal government to cut travel nurse pay rates. Recently there has been a letter sent by Jeffery Zients urging Congress to investigate the conduct of nurse staffing agencies.
Nurse-staffing agencies are taking advantage of the pandemic and vastly inflating prices for healthcare by two, three, or more times pre-pandemic rates. With the extra costs, they take 40% or more of the amount charged by hospitals for themselves in profit. This case arose Jan. 24, 2022 by Jeffery Zients and 200 people have signed the letter.
Nurses have apparently had enough. Nurse.org says that some nurses have hinted they would strike if legislation capping pay came to pass. Others have suggested that there is no need for a formal strike because travel nurses could not pick up new assignments, making understaffing even worse. One nurse shared, ““I have just had my best year ever. I could easily sit out for 6 months or change careers. They do not want to screw around with nurses right now. It is curious that people making legal policy don't possess the professional credentials to do our jobs but believe that they know better than us anyway.” Furthermore, there is a petition spreading among nurses.
Some nurses are planning to protest by marching to the capitol in Washington, D.C. on May 12, 2022. Brandi Evans, a nurse for 15 years, addressed, “Nurses have cared for deadly sick patients, worked extra days to help with understaffing, and worked in unsafe conditions for the past two years. Deciding to cut our pay was the last straw for me.” Nurses are demanding safe nurse to patient staffing ratios and protest against capping travel nurse pay. This date was chosen because it is during Nurses Appreciation week and it is Florence Nightingale's birthday, May 12, 1820.
Florence Nightingale wrote over 150 books, pamphlets, and reports on health-related issues. She is also credited with creating one of the first versions of the pie chart. Nightingale is mainly known for making hospitals cleaner and a safer place to be. She is known as the founder of modern nursing. She established St. Thomas’ hospital and the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in 1860.