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Nurses affiliated with the group National Nurses United read the names of registered nurses who died during the coronavirus pandemic while demonstrating in Black Lives Matter Plaza May 12, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Nurses Plan Nationwide Rally to Demand Better Covid Safety Rules

"We need permanent protections based on science, and we need them now because when nurses and healthcare workers aren't safe, we cannot keep our patients safe."

Jenna McGuire

Members of the National Nurses United, the nation's largest union of RNs, will hold demonstrations across the country on Thursday, January 13 to advocate for safer working conditions in hospitals and demand President Joe Biden fufill his campaign promises of protecting nurses and public health.

"As we enter year three of the deadliest pandemic in our lifetimes, nurses are enraged to see that, for our government and our employers, it's all about what's good for business, not what's good for public health," said NNU president Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN.

"The working conditions that our employers and the federal government are telling nurses and healthcare workers to endure are both grossly unfair and unsustainable."

The national day of action organized by NNU comes as the Biden administration faces criticism for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) weakening of Covid-19 isolation guidelines and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) withdrawing some crucial protections for healthcare workers.

As the Omicron variant is sweeping across the country and hospitalizations are rapidly climbing, working conditions have become so unsafe that, according to NNU, "nurses are being driven away from the profession."

"Our employers claim there is a 'nursing shortage,' and that's why they must flout optimal isolation times, but we know there are plenty of registered nurses in this country," continued Triunfo-Cortez. "There is only a shortage of nurses willing to work in the unsafe conditions created by hospital employers and this government's refusal to impose lifesaving standards. So this is a vicious cycle where weakening protections just drives more nurses away from their jobs."

NNU claims that the U.S. government has left many of their workers unprotected in profit-driven hospitals that have failed to implement safe working environments.

The union surveyed thousands of registered nurses across the country from October to Decemebr 2021 and found that "83% said at least half of their shifts were unsafely staffed, and 68% said they have considered leaving their position." However, if immediate improvements to working conditions and increased staffing levels are made, NNU says nurses would not feel compelled to leave their profession.

In conjunction with labor organizations and other unions representing nurses, NNU recently petitioned a federal court to order OSHA to issue a permanent standard requiring employers to protect healthcare workers from Covid-19.

Without permanent protections, their workers are in "grave danger," NNU says, demanding the CDC apply stricter isolation guidelines and "OSHA institute a permanent Covid healthcare standard without delay."

"The working conditions that our employers and the federal government are telling nurses and healthcare workers to endure are both grossly unfair and unsustainable, and we are standing up on January 13 to say, 'Enough!,'" said Bonnie Castillo, RN, NNU executive director. "We need permanent protections based on science, and we need them now because when nurses and healthcare workers aren't safe, we cannot keep our patients safe."

The NNU day of action will also include a national virtual press conference and a candlelight vigil in Washington, D.C. for nurses who have lost their lives to Covid-19.


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