This Nurses’ Week, don’t call us heroes. Call for safe COVID-19 protections.

We want protections, not pizza! Sign from a shift change action at Oakland, California Kaiser.

Celia Yap Banago just missed the 40-year-anniversary of working at her hospital. Karla Dominguez’s pediatric patients, or her “kids” as she called them, are now without their registered nurse “mom.” Jeff Baumbach will no longer be sharing life lessons with his daughter, and Noel Sinkiat’s retirement motorcycle trip is now cancelled. Helen Gbodi and Paul Anthony Camagay will never again care for their patients.

As we head into Nurses’ Week, these are the registered nurse members of National Nurses United who have lost their lives on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they are among the 87 nurses we have lost across the country. While our colleagues are dying, nurses know that our hospital employers and industry will call us “heroes” this Nurses’ Week, and show their “appreciation” to us with a pizza party or gifts of hospital swag — as they do every year.

But this year, the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, we cannot emphasize enough that praise is empty — even insulting — without protections.

NNU nurses at the White House in April, demanding protections and honoring fallen nurses. Sign honoring NNU member Noel Sinkiat at right.

Since January, we have been fighting for optimal personal protective equipment (PPE) to care for our patients safely during this pandemic. It’s May, and we still don’t have it in our hands. So nurses are standing up at events all across the country over the next seven days, from an online art show featuring nurses to launch the week on May 6, to a protest at the White House on May 7, to a 1000-person online vigil in honor of our fallen nurses on May 12 (see below for Nurses’ Week schedule).

Employers and the government can keep their donuts and their air shows, which can’t bring our colleagues back or protect us on the front lines. Here’s what we really want for Nurses’ Week — and beyond:

Give nurses optimal PPE. Nurses and other health care workers must have the optimal PPE we need, including powered air-purifying respirators, coveralls that incorporate head coverings and shoe coverings, and gloves. Otherwise, hospitals will continue to be sources for spreading infection, not for healing, and nurses and health care workers will continue to get sick and die. We did not sign up to sacrifice our lives.

Activate the Defense Production Act. It is clear to nurses that the industry thinks they have produced an acceptable solution to the PPE shortage by implementing widespread use of various N95 respirator decontamination systems. This is unacceptable and unsafe.

For months, nurses have been calling on President Trump to activate the Defense Production Act (DPA) to order the mass production of PPE right here in the United States. Rather than using unproven decontamination methods, nurses demand new, single-use N95 respirators. For Nurses’ Week, if President Trump believes nurses and health care workers are heroes, we call on him to show us respect by activating the Defense Production Act.

Pass an emergency temporary OSHA standard on infectious diseases. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) must pass an emergency temporary standard to mandate that health care employers provide protections needed for COVID-19. We know employers are not going to do it out of the goodness of their hearts.

Strengthen CDC, WHO guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the organization in charge of America’s health, and the World Health Organization (WHO), its global equivalent, based their guidelines on availability of PPE, not on science. They even said it was okay for nurses to wear a bandana. By now, risk for airborne transmission of the virus is documented, and nurses demand the CDC and WHO recognize this and strengthen their guidelines accordingly. We shouldn’t have had to wait this long!

Protect us with housing, child care, and presumptive eligibility for workers’ compensation. Nurses have already had to move into our cars and garages to protect our families. We demand employers that haven’t done so already cover costs for housing costs and child care, so we can keep our families safe. We have also been told to use our sick and vacation time to cover time off for COVID-19 infections we contracted at work. We demand that our COVID-19 infections are automatically eligible for workers’ compensation.

Strengthen public health infrastructure to include sufficient staffing, supplies, and space for robust surveillance, testing, case isolation, and contact tracing to ensure that the virus is effectively contained.

Nurses are used to our employers giving us infuriating and demeaning gifts on Nurses’ Week. They do it every year, while they fail to protect us all year long. It’s 2020, nurses are literally fighting for their lives during this pandemic, and we have had enough. It’s time for hospitals and our society to value the care work that upholds life, rather than the profits gleaned from human suffering.

We can’t go back to business as usual.


May 6 — Wow ’Em Wednesday
Nurses’ Week Art Show — Facebook Live Event
8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT
Hear from artists who created pieces with the theme: #ProtectNurses: All Our Lives Depend On It. RSVP by clicking here.

May 7 — Throwdown Thursday
White House action
10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT
Nurses leave shoes near the White House to represent the nurses who have died from Covid-19.

California lobby day
California nurses will lobby their representatives in the state Senate and Assembly via Zoom, calling for COVID-19 protections. Everyone everywhere can visit to take national action!

May 8 — Fight Back Friday
California lobby day
California nurses will lobby their representatives in the state Senate and Assembly via Zoom, calling for COVID-19 protections. Everyone everywhere can visit to take national action!

May 9 — Sharing Saturday
Visit and share NNU’s memorial website for nurses who have lost their lives to COVID-19:, where you can honor fallen nurses, share memories, and take collective action to protect nurses on the front lines.

May 10 (Mother’s Day) — Survey Sunday
Some nurses are spending this Mother’s Day separated from their children for fear of bringing the virus home. We will honor them by sharing their personal stories, while we fight for optimal PPE to protect nurses, so they can protect their families, in turn. We will also be sharing our latest survey for nurses on what’s happening in your facility. Take the COVID-19 survey and help inform reports about and recommendations for handling the pandemic.

May 11 — Mad as Hell Monday
Nurses’ Week special edition: Facebook Live with Canadian Federation of Nurses Union (at NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo’s Facebook page)
6:30 p.m. ET/ 3:30 p.m. PT
We’ll be talking about the different experiences nurses in Canada have compared to the US. So far, no nurses have died from COVID-19 in Canada where they have access to safe PPE.

May 12 — Together Tuesday
Vigil to honor fallen nurses
9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT
Nurses will come together in a 1,000-person Zoom vigil for nurses we have lost to COVID-19. You can watch the vigil on NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo’s Facebook page.

Union Nurse Leader & Medicare For All Activist. Executive Director of @NationalNurses, the Largest U.S. Organization of Registered Nurses. #TIME100

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