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NNU’s ‘Deadly Shame’ report: Nurses devalued amid COVID

SILVER SPRING, Md. (Dec. 10, 2020) — While nurses are lauded as heroes for their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the reality facing many nurses is one of disregard from management and top policymakers.

Deadly Shame: Redressing the Devaluation of Registered Nurse Labor Through Pandemic Equity is a new white paper by National Nurses United (NNU), which provides an in-depth analysis of the devaluation of nurses’ care work and resulting inequities, their experiences on the pandemic’s front lines, and ways to redress these issues through collective action. The report finds that the corporate health care system treats nurses and other health care workers as expendable and that “employers have taken advantage of every opportunity presented during the pandemic to maximize profits.”

Key concepts in NNU’s white paper include:

  • Why moral distress and moral injury are happening to the most trusted profession in the United States;
  • How the “care work” of registered nurses, a woman-dominated profession, is devalued by employers and government; and
  • How to safeguard nurses by mitigating care work inequities during the pandemic.

Here is the report’s conclusion:

Nurses’ labor has been devalued historically. Comparisons between different occupations expose the gender bias at its roots. Gender, racial, and ethnic biases have been found within the nursing profession. Through unionization, nurses have collectively fought back and made tremendous gains in wages, benefits, and health and safety protections and reduced gender, racial, and ethnic biases. Unfortunately, biases persist. Gender bias in presumptive eligibility for workers’ compensation between predominantly male and predominantly female occupations is particularly deplorable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As this paper has shown, nurses are among the most likely to contract COVID-19 on the job. Furthermore, even those who do not contract the illness may experience moral distress and injury as well as long-term adverse mental health effects. Nurses have been, and continue to be, betrayed by those with legal and ethical obligations to ensure their health and safety in the workplace. Both the risks and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic can be mitigated. The risks can be mitigated through provision of optimal PPE, the creation and enforcement of occupational health and safety standards, and other measures to reduce exposure. The effects of the pandemic can be mitigated through paid sick time and quarantine leave, presumptive eligibility for COVID-19 workers’ compensation, and essential worker pay.

NNU calls on employers and the leaders of local, state, and federal governments to act now to mitigate both the risks and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on nurses and other health care workers.

Read the full report.



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