With vigils, rallies, and strikes, 100,000 registered nurses across the country on Wednesday are voicing their growing frustration with what they see as a lack of protections for health care workers risking their lives on the front lines of the Ebola epidemic and other health crises.
"The lack of concern for nurses and patients in a world where corporations have taken over our community health care has been magnified during this deadly Ebola crisis," said Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United (NNU), which organized the day of action.
According to organizers, 71 actions are being held in 16 states, as well as Washington D.C., where nurses held a "die in" outside the White House to illustrate what happens when there is a lack of hospital preparedness.
International solidarity actions are also planned in Canada, Ireland, the Philippines, Spain, and Australia, where nurses are picketing at the G20 summit demanding a heightened response to the global health crisis from the assembled world leaders.
"The lack of concern for nurses and patients in a world where corporations have taken over our community health care has been magnified during this deadly Ebola crisis."
—Rose Ann DeMoro, National Nurses United
"The safety of front-line nurses in Canada and across the world is not negotiable," the United Nurses of Alberta wrote on Twitter in solidarity with the demonstrations.
As the Ebola crisis grew, the nation's nurses were among the first to sound the alarm over the failure of U.S. hospitals to provide adequate equipment and training to health care workers.
"If nurses had not taken to the air waves, to the streets and to the legislatures, there would have been inaction on Ebola," DeMoro continued. She and other public health advocates have warned that the increasing privatization of U.S. hospitals has caused dangerous inconsistencies in protocol.
"The Centers for Disease Control had no power, and Ebola is the latest in health threats, there will be more to come," DeMoro continued. "Hospitals should be forced to spend the money on patient safety that they spend on public relations."
Among other actions, 18,000 nurses are holding a two-day strike at 86 Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics, where, according to NNU, officials have repeatedly dismissed the concerns of health care workers over the erosion of patient care standards. Nurses "see Kaiser’s failure to adopt the optimal safeguards for Ebola as symbolic of its overall dismissal of nurses’ concerns about patient care," NNU writes.
Nurses are calling for hospitals to provide optimal protective equipment for all health care givers who interact with Ebola patients, including approved full-body hazmat suits and air purifying respirators. Further, they are demanding that all facilities provide continuous, interactive training for all health care staff who might encounter an Ebola patient.
A list of all actions can be found here with updates and images from demonstrations around the world being shared on Twitter.