The Million Nurse March: Problems in the Nursing Workplace


Ashley Florence, Contributor

The medical academy at Bob Jones is a popular program, but some local nurses are trying to raise awareness about issues currently impacting the field of nursing. Accord to U.S. News, “The nation will need an additional 1.2 million nurses by next year to meet the growing demand for their services and to replace those leaving, said Dr. Ernest Grant, president of the American Nurses Association.” What is being done now to improve the field of nursing?

On May 12, 2022, nurses from all over the country will participate in the Million Nurse March. The reason why this date was chosen is because it is the birthday of the mother of nursing: Florence Nightingale. The march will be held at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. The nurses participating in this will demand legislators to not cap their pay and demand safer conditions in the hospital for both the patients and themselves. These problems have been going on long before Covid, but now it’s taking light. 

Understaffing in hospitals is due to hospital administrators not wanting to hire adequate staffing because they believe it would be cost-ineffective. Nurses argue instead, it could cause problems that are even more costly. Some nurses have to work double shifts (24-hours) due to inadequate staffing. When working a double shift with no breaks, nurses can  become exhausted and could accidentally make a mistake with their patients. Because of this, patients could suffer while nurses are blamed for the mistakes of those higher up. 

Now the issue of inadequate staffing has worsened because of Covid. Nurses could possibly catch it from patients and would have to quarantine, leaving their coworkers behind to take care of more patients. 

The CDC has recently released an article saying that nurses who are asymptomatic or show improving symptoms are allowed to go back to work. The problem with this is even though the nurse may be asymptomatic or show improving symptoms, they still have Covid. The nurses who are asymptomatic may feel well, but they can still transmit Covid to their patients or their coworkers. The nurses with improving symptoms also pose this risk, and it is dangerous for themselves as well. Even though their symptoms are improving, they are still sick and can easily become exhausted and out of breath.

There are many other problems within the hospital workplace.  Two local nurses shared their recent experiences and thoughts. I have left them anonymous upon request due to the backlash they might face from their hospitals.

Nurse #1

Me: What problem in hospitals do you feel need to be addressed?

Nurse #1: I feel that we need safer nurse to patient ratios. And I feel we need to be taken care of so we can take care of patients. We are strung out, burnt out, and tired.

Me: In order to take care of their patients the caregiver needs to take care of themselves first.

Nurse #1: Exactly. 

Me: I have heard that nurses face a lot of harassment in the workplace. Is that true?

Nurse #1: Yes, nurses actually get verbally abused by their patients and physically abused and a lot of times there is no repercussions. There’s a lot of nurses whose careers have been ended by a violent patient and nothing ever happened to that patient. Then the nurse had to go on disability because the patient broke the nurses legs, shoulder, caused a concussion, and nothing happened. So, I think that nurses need more protection in that sense. 

Nurse #2

Me: What are some of the biggest problems you have faced during your nursing career?

Nurse #2:  I think short staffing, nurse-to-patient ratios is a problem. I would say that short staffing in general, not even just nurses, but also techs and just extra help. 

Me: Have you faced harassment in the hospital before?

Nurse #2: Oh, yes that definitely happens. I think that this isn’t really talked about.  But I have definitely been called every name in the book while trying to care for someone. I’ve been hit, kicked, pinched, and punched. There was a lot of physical abuse for sure. 

Me: Wow, I knew that it was bad, but I didn’t know that it was that bad.

Nurse #2: Yes, especially when you’re short staffed. 

Me: Do you feel that you get paid an adequate amount for what you do?

Nurse #2: I would say overall no. Jobs like welders, linemen, things like that that are trade jobs. It can require the same associates degree an RN can have and they still make more than us, significantly more than us. So I would say no.

Me: What is the biggest problem you think nurses face today?

Nurse #2: Our mental health. I think that mentally people don’t understand how traumatic it is to be a nurse. I heard somebody say the other day that it is micro-dosing trauma until you can’t take it anymore and that is literally what nursing is. People don’t talk about the fact that we go home at night and we think about every patient we had, every drug we gave. Everything we did that day. Everything we could have done differently. Everything that we could have done better. It is something we think about until the next day, even months down the road. I still remember patients I took care of that had such bad outcomes that they just never leave you. So I think that mentally, nursing in general has always been an industry that’s been tough. And now with the pandemic and feeling unappreciated in a way it just kind of magnifies that issue. 

The Million Nurse March will address these issues and others like it to hopefully make the hospital and other nurse work environments safer for all.