US nurses protest over COVID-19 working conditions

Registered nurse members of National Nurses United held actions across the U.S. Jan. 13 advocating for better staffing and protections for workers. 

Rallies took place at hospitals in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Texas and the District of Columbia, according to a union news release. 

National Nurses United said workers want hospitals to invest in safe staffing. They also want the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to adopt permanent COVID-19 protections for healthcare workers and keep an emergency temporary standard for healthcare workers in place until that happens. Additionally, the union is calling for the CDC to strengthen isolation guidelines for healthcare workers and the public.

"Nurses emphasize that being left unprotected by the government and by their profit-driven hospital employers, which have failed to invest in safe staffing and provide critical health and safety protections, has created such unsafe working conditions that nurses are being driven away from the profession," the union said in a news release. 

According to a survey National Nurses United conducted among thousands of registered nurses from October to December 2021, 83 percent of respondents said at least half of their shifts were not adequately staffed, and 68 percent said they have considered leaving their job. 

In a statement shared with Becker's, Robyn Begley, DNP, RN, senior vice president and CNO of the American Hospital Association, acknowledged the severity of workforce challenges facing healthcare workers during the pandemic. She described the challenges as a national emergency that needs to immediately be addressed. 

"Along with clinical and administrative leaders in our field, they have worked tirelessly and courageously day in and day out to care for patients in their communities. They have taken on unimagined challenges and have risen to the occasion time and time again," Ms. Begley said. "Hospitals and health systems know this all too well, and they are taking proactive steps to assist and retain their skilled, invaluable workforce."

Ms. Begley said the American Hospital Association has advocated that Congress and the Biden administration prioritize programs that address this situation, such as scholarships and loan repayment for nurses and nursing faculty.

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