‘It’s like they forget we’re people’: healthcare workers run down by COVID
Nurses are currently facing unfair treatment in the healthcare field. They are understaffed at hospitals, and, as a result, their already difficult jobs have become even harder. One local nurse who chose to speak about this is Diego Reynoso, a registered nurse at Erie County Medical Center (ECMC). He was very passionate about the current problems nurses are facing at ECMC. Reynoso told a small anecdote about his experience with understaffed conditions at ECMC:
“There was one time where I had to deal with eight patients, and one of them was in respiratory distress, so naturally — as is my job — I went over to give medical intervention and stabilize him to keep him alive, but while I was doing this I still had my other patients to check on,” he said. “A man’s life was on the line though, so I clearly took care of the highest priority patient first, but that didn’t stop the other patients and their families from yelling at me and swearing at me because I didn’t get to them first. Somehow, even though I was saving a man’s life, I’m still the bad guy because I didn’t come check in on someone else to give them what they wanted. This is just one time this has happened. I’ve had things thrown at me before with similar occurrences.”
Ever since the pandemic started flooding hospitals early in 2020, nurses have been pushed beyond their limits in an effort to assist with the influx of people getting sick from COVID-19. Even though nurses are putting in an incredible amount of effort, many of them feel that they are not being treated or compensated properly for their work.
Since ECMC is understaffed, it occasionally results in an entire floor having only three nurses to treat around 20 patients.
Reynoso said, “It’s our job to take care of people that come in, but it becomes a mess: when you have one patient in need of emergency help, you still have to deal with your other patients, too, since they each have their own needs which could be any number of things. And you may even have to assist another nurse with their patients, since we’re so understaffed and people just keep coming in.”
The result of a lack of nurses is that they are being offered a great deal of overtime because there is too much work at the hospital that needs to be done.
The massive increase in workload should result in a higher wage for travel nurses, but instead there is a wage cap in the works, making nurses the only ones in the medical field to receive a cap. Many nurses are outraged at this since some often feel they are putting in more work than the doctors, Reynoso said, but they are receiving less and are being told that they can only make so much money. Meanwhile, their numbers continue to shrink while hospitals fire nurses who have not gotten the COVID vaccine.
Another issue according to Reynoso is the increase in need for travel nurses. Reynoso said: “Travel nurses come in and help us which is appreciated, but the part that hurts is the fact that they do the same work as us, so even if we have someone who has been a nurse for 40-plus years, they will make less than half what travel nurses make.”
All while this is happening, Reynoso continued, their mental health is never taken into consideration. So many nurses suffer from mental anguish and still help everyone who seeks treatment, instead of going to another job they know would pay more money. Reynoso said of the mistreatment: “It’s like they forget we’re people, too. We have families, our own needs to take care of, but is any of that being taken into consideration? Never. But we’re immediately thought of when their hospitals get flooded with people while only having a few nurses stationed on each floor.”