I think there are a few things going on: workers in general are disempowered and disrespected, yet it is our labor that creates wealth. Profit? That is the surplus value of our labor. Wages have stagnated and not kept up with inflation and while nursing is in general decently compensated, we work in conditions that take a massive mental and physical toll on us. Add in a pandemic where we are working short on PPE and under even more staffing strain because of the high patient volume that is overwhelming healthcare systems and I think demands for respect, safety, compensation is reasonable. Yes, we are employed while others have been hit really hard by shut downs and layoffs, but from an economic interests standpoint we have more in common with the folks on unemployment and low paying jobs than with the wealthy who are seeing massive increases in wealth during this time. And when hospitals and governments try to mollify us by calling us heroes and angels or whatever, rather than working to address our safety and health, it makes me and a lot of us angry.
I don’t consider myself a hero and I definitely don’t want to be a martyr. But I think nurses who cling do that narrative are doing so out of a need to have SOMETHING in terms of respect.
I think sharing with a wider audience of other nurses is therapeutic. I follow a few humor accounts on instagram and it’s cathartic to laugh at the same frustrations others have. I think it’s OK to be seen as human, as people who exist beyond caretaking, to see that we try to bring joy in to work during a really, really hard time. I think some of the stuff is in poor taste but that’s social media culture.
I’m more ashamed of nurses who can’t address their personal biases in meaningful ways to provide compassionate care to patients. Nurses who mock pronouns or who get territorial about giving out food when a huge portion of our patient population is food insecure. Who dismiss patients because of their history, like homeless IV drug users can’t also get sick. We have evidence based studies showing health outcome disparities due to racism and then a complete disconnect with why a BIPOC patient might be “challenging” or distrustful of care.
I became a nurse from a history of social justice activism: I want to make a difference in people’s lives and do so in a way where I can see that difference. And I wanted to be able to have a secure and comfortable life. Doing it “for the money” doesn’t need to be on opposition to doing it for the benefit to society especially in such a highly stratified system.
I’m furious that a country with so much wealth chose not to ameliorate the costs of doing what we needed to do to contain the pandemic.