Student Opinion: Nurses Rally in Demand for a Safer Work Environment

By Jose Orozco

On Nov. 10, nurses at UC Davis Medical Center (UCDMC) held a rally demanding safe staffing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses claim that UCDMC management has failed to provide a safe environment for both nurses and patients. 

Unfortunately, this rally has not been the first of its kind as it is a reiteration of the rally that occurred on Jul. 23.  

By this new rally, it is apparent that UCDMC management has done little to appease the staff’s wishes. Nurses feel that conditions are unsafe and that these issues have not been addressed. 

One would wish to see UCDMC take several steps to meet halfway with the demands, but seeing the repetition of the July rally this month, it is apparent that reaching an agreement may be unlikely.

Jenny Managhebi, a registered nurse, states: “As nurses dedicated to our patients, we have worked hard to provide the best care even as we fought for appropriate personal protective equipment, safe staffing levels, and watched our patients and our co-workers become ill with Covid.”

According to Healthline, the state of California is the fourth state with the highest cases of COVID-19. There has been a jump of 38 percent, with a total of 40,187 new cases. 

This is very concerning when such a steep increase in cases recreates the problem we had at the start of the pandemic. The health care system only has a certain capacity available to respond to people infected during the pandemic. 

This was the main concern and motive force behind the idea of flattening the curve. And the fact that medical centers are not providing nurses with enough protective equipment is the epitome of foolishness. 

It represents a major problem in our state where the usage of protective equipment is not given major precedence. 

Managhebi continues saying, “Instead of honoring our service, UCDMC has been denying nurses Covid-related administrative leave for many months… We are exhausted. Our families need us now more than ever.”

“As health care providers, we understand that we can only give the best care to our patients, when we can care for ourselves.”

It is apparent that the health care system is fractured. Yes, the pandemic has affected everyone, but it has also greatly impacted nurses and other medical staff more so than anyone else.

It is sad to see nurses caged in hospitals when they have families fighting against COVID-19 as well. They are essential during these troubling times, but they should also be allowed to leave for those who need them the mosttheir families.

National Nurses United reports: “Nurses at UCDMC note that since the start of the pandemic, 77 nurses have tested positive for Covid. Nurses attribute these infections to the inadequate access to appropriate protective equipment, management’s failure to notify nurses of exposure, and a lack of access to testing for the nurses.”

So, what kind of resolutions can take place? UCDMC can definitely attempt to invest more in obtaining protective equipment and tests for nurses. 

Nurses at Calais Regional Hospital reached a tentative agreement on Nov. 10 and stopped the plan of having the rally altogether. 

National Nurses United has reported, “Highlights of the labor contract include pay increases and continued protections for core benefits.” This contract also follows an announcement by employees stating that a two-day strike will be held next week. 

UCDMC should seek to reach a contract with nurses under similar guidelines. Increasing their income during this time of hardship would definitely be a motivator. For one, they have more than earned it and should be recompensed for the time spent away from their families. 

From there, UCDMC should seek to increase the amount of protective equipment available. These two steps should be more than enough to reach an agreement. Increasing access to tests and being able to notify nurses of exposure in advance seems to be a much harder goal to reach but it should not be. 

Given that the current, most accurate method of testing COVID-19 is a PCR test, we can expect the process to be extremely slow. The task requires a nasal swab and an analyst checking for the virus’s genetic material.

It is impossible to test the majority of patients entering the hospital accurately and to make matters worse, these tests must be taken intermittently.

All in all, increasing both nurses’ salaries and the availability of protective equipment would be the ideal situation. Now, whether UCDMC will do anything is extremely questionable–– especially when considering that nurses had this same rally several months ago. 

And the lack of an appropriate response from UCDMC is just lamentable. 

We must do our part and alleviate some stress by taking the pandemic more seriously and by actively wearing masks to diminish the virus’s spread to flatten the currently expanding curve considerably.

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1 Comment

  1. Tia Will

    First, I want to commend the author for taking on this difficult topic. I would like to present a different perspective on some points.

    1.” it is apparent that UCDMC management has done little to appease the staff’s wishes.”

    This should not be seen as an effort to appease, but rather an effort to enact best practices for both patients and workers within the framework of what is possible with limited and dispersed resources.

    2.” Nurses attribute these infections to the inadequate access to appropriate protective equipment, management’s failure to notify nurses of exposure, and a lack of access to testing for the nurses.” 

    If this is accurate, the last two points are inexcusable and need to be rectified immediately. Getting sufficient PPE is another issue and is subject to the availability of supply. This should have been a national imperative with supply chains secured by a national distribution system, preferably the military rather than a competition for resources.

    3. Pay increases and overtime pay are great ideas, but will not address the issues of fatigue, burnout, and fear.

    4. Time off is a lovely idea, but completely unfeasible when there are not enough trained personnel as we saw repeatedly earlier in the pandemic when subspecialists were being recruited to work as ER and ICU specialists in many areas.

    5. Finally, I would like to dispel a myth. Our “health care system” is not fractured, it is non-existent. What we have are clusters of health care insurers, pharmaceutical companies and distributors, hospitals, clinics and individual providers who occasionally cooperate, but more often exist in a competitive environment designed to maximize profit in the name of the provision of health care.

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