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Enough Is Enough

      Enough is enough! I really don't know what else to say. As I write this, it is Labor Day weekend. I am mad. I am frustrated. I am aghast. I am in complete and utter disbelief! I do believe the world has tipped off of its axis. The majority of the human race—or at least a very large part of the United States— has COMPLETELY lost its mind. As a result, health care providers, with nurses being at the tip of the sphere, are suffering. The current pandemic of the unvaccinated may not only emaciate the population of disbelievers, but I believe it will also change the trajectory of the nursing profession.
      Regardless of the results of the next Gallup poll, it is obvious that nursing is no longer the most trusted profession. While the early days of the COVID pandemic saw nurses revered, cheered, encouraged, supported, and treated as superheroes, the current wave of the pandemic is seeing nurses abused by their patients and families, by the public, and also by the health care systems in which they work. Enough is enough. The time of the nurse as an angel, as a superhero, as a rescuer, as a sacrificial lamb, must end. The time of the nurse as a badass professional must ensue.
      Yes, I said it. I am contemplating a tattoo to mark the occasion. While I have always advocated for nursing professionalism, and for dedication to our patients, our community, our work in general, I am done. Meek, mild professionalism is getting us nowhere. We have professionally advocated for the safety of COVID vaccines, only to be ignored, ridiculed, and/or psychologically and physically attacked. We now find ourselves taking care of patients who COMPLETELY ignored the science, who ignored the professionals, who will take sheep dewormer, but won't take what is now a US Food and Drug Administration–approved vaccine. In many regions, the National Guard has been called in to provide extra staffing at hospitals. Elective surgeries are once again being canceled. Patients may soon be faced with the rationing of care, having to sign documents acknowledging that depending on age and chance of survival, one may not receive full treatment if resources, including ventilators and medications, are not available.
      The resulting burnout and moral distress of the nursing workforce is reaching critical levels. Nurses are resigning in droves, and they will likely never return. While current enrollments in nursing programs are yet unaffected, I would not be surprised to see enrollment numbers start to decline in the near future. I am now fully convinced the profession will never look the same after this pandemic. We have sacrificed too much; we have been placed in a wartime environment with no armor, no support, no back-up, and no respite. I think it is time for the nurse to step up, take control, and call the shots. The days of asking, nicely requesting, are over. A bed in a hospital, without a nurse, is just a bed. Patients come to the hospital for nursing care. Without nursing, the wheelhouse—the machine of what we know as traditional hospital care—grinds to a halt. Nurses must no longer be sacrificed for profit. Nurses must no longer be taken advantage of. Nurses must no longer be abused. Nurses must be warriors. Advocating is not an option. Forcefully demanding, a willingness to walk away, is in order if we are to survive and move out of the current crisis. We MUST take care of ourselves if we are to successfully and professionally provide care for others.
      My thoughts on moving forward in this crisis:
      • Nurses deserve adequate armor to face their foes. If you must stand in the line of duty, then you should be fully equipped to do so. Adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) is a must. It should not be recycled. It should not be reused. If there is not adequate PPE to protect you when you do your job, then the hospital should be closing beds until adequate equipment is available.
      • Nurses deserve adequate training to do their jobs. If you are being pulled to other areas because elective surgeries have been shut down, then you deserve adequate training and support to function in that area. If you are called off because there are no surgeries, you still deserve your full pay with no impact on your paid time off. New graduates, even in the midst of this crisis, deserve adequate training to do their jobs.
      • Mandatory overtime MUST be abolished. You have the right to, and should, refuse mandatory overtime. It is not patient abandonment to refuse overtime. In reality, it is protecting the patient to refuse mandatory overtime. If your hospital threatens to fire you, get a lawyer or call a union representative. A tired nurse, a burned-out nurse, is dangerous to themselves and to the patients they care for. If there is inadequate staffing, then beds should be closed.
      • Nursing pay must be increased. If you can pay double or triple the pay for travel nurses, you should be able to pay that and more for your local staff.
      All of this being said, we, as nurses also have some obligations:
      • Get vaccinated. There is no excuse. If you are a working healthcare professional, if you are practicing as a nurse, regardless of setting, you must be vaccinated against COVID. If you are not willing to be vaccinated, then you should not be working. If you speak false-truths about COVID vaccinations and/or treatments, your license should be revoked. Period. End of discussion.
      • Your place of employment should require all staff to be vaccinated. Again, there is really nothing to discuss here. It is the reality and the responsible thing to do.
      • Nurses must run to the microphone—to the media—and tell our own story. Make your trauma—make your story—known. Don't rely on the physicians. Don't rely on administrators. Walk to the media, not away. The truth of your trauma must be told. The picture of the continuous death and dying of COVID must be told and told graphically. These stories, these truths, may be humanity's only hope for survival.
      Enough is enough! I beg you. I implore you. Step up. Make your demands. Past generations as well as future generations of nurses are depending on those of us in this moment to take the reins and lead the country—and the world—out of this crisis. History will judge us by our actions or lack thereof. I dare you. Stand up for yourselves. Stand up for the profession. Take the lead. Be the badass!