I met dedicated, hard workers at Mission Hospital in the three years I was a nurse there. Though I loved providing patient care, by the time I left, I swore I’d never work in a hospital again. The main reason for this was short staffing. Nurses endure intense schooling and training because they want a job helping people. It is heartbreaking when too often, they’re made to feel they are failing to do that because of short staffing and unreasonable workloads.
When nurses are worked so hard that they’re pushed to the breaking point, patients suffer from it, too. There’s a limit to the number of patients a nurse can safely assume responsibility for and a limit to the hours a nurse can go without time for bathroom, water or eating breaks. When profit motives push that limit to the max and beyond, quality of care pays the price, and nurses get the blame. These are the conditions I witnessed too often at my job, and that was before Mission was bought out by a huge, for-profit corporation. It was also before the pandemic, which exacerbates short-staffing issues.
Nurses care about their patients and risk their lives caring for COVID patients in hospitals with inadequate PPE. To go above and beyond all of the already extremely exhausting and emotionally stressful work in these conditions in order to make the difficult effort to unionize — now, that is dedication.
Make no mistake, unions can be a vital tool in providing safe working conditions and safe, quality care for patients. But unions require participation by good people, as do democracies. It’s not easy, and it is time-consuming. These nurses deserve support and thanks from the community. Please encourage them in the coming weeks and months as they navigate their way to positive hospital reforms benefiting everyone.
— Lillie Wallace
Former Asheville resident of 20-plus years
Athens, Ga., area