Nurses and our health care teams have brought this nation through the worst devastation to our health in over 100 years. We have witnessed more than 720,000 deaths in the United States as a result of COVID-19. And it’s not over. COVID continues to ravage many of our communities, taking the lives of potentially anyone, including younger, healthier adults and hundreds of children.
The critical care nurses of America have been beside seriously ill COVID patients, holding their hands so that your loved ones wouldn’t die alone. We’ve cared for thousands more who will suffer with the effects of COVID for months, perhaps a lifetime. COVID kills, and the death is a difficult, tragic and lonely one. Trust us. We have seen it, hundreds of thousands of times.
We are asking for your help. Because America’s nurses are now the ones in crisis.
American Association of Critical-Care Nurses recently surveyed over 6,000 acute and critical care nurses. What we found is alarming, especially when there is already a dire shortage of nurses. Findings include:
- 67 percent say, “I fear taking care of patients with COVID puts my family’s health at risk.”
- 66 percent say, “My experiences during the pandemic have caused me to consider leaving nursing.”
- 76 percent say, “People who hold out on getting vaccinated undermine nurses’ physical and mental well-being.”
- 92 percent say, “I believe the pandemic has depleted nurses at my hospital. Their careers will be shorter than they intended.”
And no wonder nurses are walking away from a profession they loved. As we show up time and again to fight against all odds to save lives, we are frustrated by those who have rejected clear data-driven guidance in this preventable fourth wave of the pandemic. Day after day, we lose patients who didn’t have to die. More than 90 percent of people hospitalized for COVID are not vaccinated. Those unnecessary losses take an indescribable emotional toll on nurses. And our grief is compounded by abuse. Once, we were honored as heroes. Now, we are mistrusted, insulted and even attacked. We have been pushed beyond the brink. This cannot continue.
America, understand this: Hospitals can add all the rooms, beds and equipment they want, but without nurses and their teams there to take care of patients, none of it matters. If COVID patients continue to overwhelm hospitals, more nurses will surrender. There may not be a nurse to care for you. In fact, there may not even be a bed for you. Seriously ill COVID patients occupy beds in our ICUs and on hospital floors for weeks and months, far longer than most patients. Fewer nurses and scarce beds mean cancer patients can’t get treatment. Patients must be flown hundreds of miles to find an available bed. When your health emergency—stroke, heart attack or car accident—strikes, you may wait many hours for care or be treated far from home.
If this continues, health care may not be there for you when you most need it.
The only solution is to end the fourth wave of this pandemic—and prevent future waves. To bring this pandemic to an end, many more people must take action. The steps are simple: Wear a mask indoors. Keep your distance. Get vaccinated, if you’re eligible, and help others in your circle to do the same.
To learn more about how AACN is helping Americans have informed and constructive conversations about the decision to be vaccinated, visit hearusout.com. Our individual actions can end this crisis. It is a rare opportunity when humankind, in all our diversity, can unite around a single eminently achievable goal.
The future of our health and our health care system is in your hands.