Nurses Are Superheroes, But COVID-19 Is Not the Only Villain - Women’s Media Center

Stress, burnout, danger: The pandemic has only worsened existing crisis conditions for nurses and other health care workers.

5/6/2021 2:00:00 AM

“If we want to stem the tide of nurses and other health care workers heading for the door, appropriate support from our institutions at the highest levels — both government and health care — needs to be organized and promoted as a top priority.”

Stress, burnout, danger: The pandemic has only worsened existing crisis conditions for nurses and other health care workers.

(Photo by yard signs to bus stop billboards, “Health care workers are heroes” is a ubiquitous slogan these days. As a nurse who spent nearly a decade working in the emergency room, I always tend to notice them. But what happens when that pat on the back starts to feel like a slap in the face? The annual observation of Nurses Week starting May 6 will likely garner the usual plastic gifts, maybe even a T-shirt and some cake, since it has been kind of a special year. But as the dust settles around the tragedy that was our pandemic response, I urge you to consider that the superhero cape feels more like a lead balloon for many. And too many of my colleagues continue dragging the heavy cape behind them while desperately trying not to lose sight of the healing work they set out to do.

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Nurses do indeed have superpowers. Unfortunately, invisibility is one of them. TheWoodhull Study Revisitedfound that nurses were cited as sources in only 2% of health news stories in 2017 and were never cited in policy-related health stories despite their expertise and significant contributions. Nursing is scientifically complex and often physically demanding, and involves much more skill and grit than a halo and wings. You can call nurses heroes or angels, but doing so reinforces a blind spot to the intellect, critical thinking, and trained skill they bring to their work. It also glosses over the challenges nurses face, the ethical dilemmas they stare down, the physical demands they overcome, and the abuse they endure daily. One in four nurses is

assaultedat work, and up to 80% of workplace violence incidents affecting nurses go unreported. Many nurses suffer in silence as a result, knowing that others will not understand, or worse, will place the burden squarely back on their shoulders by saying they signed up for it.

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