Louisville Medicine Volume 69, Issue 5 - Page 32



Like most others , I am extremely appreciative of all those heroic professionals in so many lines of work who over the past 18 months have placed themselves at risk in order to carry out their daily work . Some of these , of course , put their lives on the line every day to provide for public safety , national defense , etc . It seems we often take their heroism and sacrifice for granted until something like the COVID-19 crisis makes us pay stark attention to the significant risks others take for all of us .

All of us during this pandemic have had to alter our lives , both at leisure and at work in huge ways . Many professionals , who previously worked face-to-face with others , in offices or other locations shifted their daily activities to interacting virtually in order to decrease the risk of infectious transmission to others as well as themselves . Others have been unable to work virtually . There are many workers who had no option to work remotely and had to continue to interact with the public . They , of course , were placed at greater risk for infection than those working remotely . In that regard , anyone who continued to interact face-to-face with the public in order to serve them deserves our collective and individual appreciation and gratitude . Those at most risk among this group were frontline health care workers . Over the past year and a half , frontline health care workers have joined the ranks of those practicing heroism on a daily basis . They are an exceptional group for many reasons . They continued to not only interact face-to-face with the public , but more importantly , those that were infected with and infectious for the COVID-19 virus . They were exposed on a daily basis to the sickest of the sick , the most infectious members of society , and knew every day when they went to work , that they were putting themselves and potentially their families at risk for a potentially deadly disease . In many instances they did this with inadequate protective equipment or supplies . They were often mandated to work even more hours than usual because of the demand of the volume and degree of severity of illness of the patients , but also because of the loss of some of these professionals for the very reason that their employers did not provide adequate protection for them .
Our governor has decided to pay bonus payments to teachers and principals for their work during the pandemic . I greatly appreciate teachers and how important they are to society overall and our children on a personal level . But much of their work during this period has been not face-to-face , but virtual . Where is the recognition for nurses , who for the most part are underpaid in the first place ? They may not have retirement benefits , often have mandated overtime , are unable to work without putting themselves at risk and are not recipients of the huge salaries and bonuses of hospital CEOs . It seems ironic that those who have risked the most are rewarded only with lip service , which does not pay the rent ( or any other expense ). If anyone deserves a bonus payment , it is our nursing colleagues , everyday heroes without whom hospitals come to a full stop . Politicians express their admiration , because without nurses , many more thousands of our fellow citizens would clearly have died .
Nurses who have no burdensome responsibilities at home , or partners who can manage at home alone , early on in COVID-19 figured out their true worth , and became traveling nurses . They report to me that they can make in three months what used to take a year . ICU RNs have been on the traveling train for several years , but COVID-19 drove those numbers through the roof - with the declaration of a national emergency , getting credentialed in multiple states became vastly easier . Right now , the estimate of ICU nurses ’ true value - and the pay of stay-at-home nurses , too - should be based on the traveling nurses ’ salary , where they have proven their worth as a hard-to-renew essential resource .
Of course , there are others who are also in this category . Physical therapists , respiratory therapists , laboratory technicians , household staff , as well as physicians , all put themselves at risk by treating these very ill patients face-to-face . But it ’ s mainly nurses who are that close to patients all day long , every day . If anyone deserves a bonus payment for service , bravery , sacrifice and daily heroics , it ’ s our nurses . They certainly deserve at least as much as teachers , and if nothing else has shown everyone how very important they are , this last period of time surely has done so . Hospitals need to pay them more , treat them with more respect , and make bedside nursing the apex of a nursing career , and not a position nurses often can ’ t wait to get away from as soon as they can … not because they don ’ t love what they do , but because they can only tolerate being taken for granted for so long . Dr . Griffin is the Chief Medical Officer for CareSource in Kentucky and West Virginia .