Being named to the TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people is an honor for all nurses
When I recently learned that TIME had added me to the 2020 TIME 100 list of the most influential people in the world, I knew that our nurse voice of patient advocacy was louder and more resonant than ever before. This award is shared with all of our National Nurses United members across the country, and with nurses everywhere, because when our patients needed protection during the most dangerous pandemic of our lifetimes, nurses stood up and got loud.
We knew that our employers would not be ready for this rapidly spreading, deadly virus. In America’s profit-driven health care system, hospitals already stock supplies at bare bones levels, using cost-saving techniques they gleaned from the auto industry. Of course, they would not be prepared with the personal protective equipment (PPE) that nurses and other health care workers would need to protect our patients, ourselves, and our communities during an emergency.
So nurses took action. Starting in January, National Nurses United began sending letters to the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Trump Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and other agencies and officials, demanding that nurses have the highest level of protections.
In a fight for our lives and our patients’ lives, National Nurses United has also held more than 1,500 actions at facilities across the country since April, held two protests at the White House, spoken out in hundreds of news reports, and conducted several surveys of registered nurses across the country to track their experience during Covid-19. Additionally, we completed a highly ambitious project to text every nurse in the country, to offer support and resources during the Covid-19 pandemic. Using peer-to-peer texting technology, driven by over 500 volunteers, NNU sent millions of texts to nurses across the country.
As patient advocates, nurses have been telling our employers and the government all along, “You must follow science.” And that means following the precautionary principle, which says we must use the highest level of protections, not the lowest, unless there is scientific proof otherwise. The virus is new, but the infection control is not.
NNU nurses have won some victories during Covid-19, but there’s still a long way to go to ensure nurses, and other health care and frontline workers have optimal protections so that we can keep our patients safe. We hope any attention received through this incredible honor inspires the public to stand with nurses in our demands that President Trump activate the Defense Production Act to mass produce PPE, that federal OSHA pass an emergency temporary standard on infectious diseases, and that the senate pass the HEROES act to support our patients and get nurses and health care workers safe PPE.
Nurses understand the social determinants of health — and how so much injustice in our society is amplified by Covid-19. As we advocate for our patients at the crossroads of so many critical issues, this award lets nurses everywhere know that our expertise is recognized, and it validates our fight to speak truth to power. It means everything to nurses to know that the world is listening.
Want to celebrate this incredible honor by helping nurses? Congress has failed to act to protect us by addressing the immediate need to scale up domestic production of PPE and other critical medical supplies. Call your Senator at 202–335–6015 and demand they pass the HEROES act now.