There was once a time I was told that to survive nursing, I had to love it. I didn’t give much thought to it then as a naive and idealistic nursing student. I thought loving what I was learning was enough for me to stay in this vocation.
These days, there’s a long list of things I brave on a daily basis: inhumane nurse-to-patient ratios, erratic schedules, a grueling workload, various occupational hazards, distressed families, missing the holidays and important things in life, a barely livable wage, and the ever daunting questions: “What if I had done something wrong that resulted in this complication?” “What if I had missed something?” “What did I do wrong that he died—was it me?”
One may think, and hope, that the COVID-19 pandemic would finally highlight the glaring inequities in our health care system as well as the working conditions that drive health care workers out of their fields or out of the country, and prod those in positions of power to act to address the situation—but this remains a pipe dream. People in power and in the business of health care tell us that health is an inalienable right, yet it’s clear, now more than ever, that it has always been a privilege. Ordinary people who ought to seek health care are reluctant to do so because they don’t have the means for it. Those who do seek help despite the economic constraints are afforded substandard service for a variety of reasons—one of which is the arduous workload that doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers endure, curtailing our ability to render the best service we can offer. Some patients die without so much as a fighting chance.
One may think, and hope, that the COVID-19 pandemic would finally highlight the glaring inequities in our health care system as well as the working conditions that drive health care workers out of their fields or out of the country, and prod those in positions of power to act to address the situation—but this remains a pipe dream.
These are a few of the realities I face every day. But why are many of us complacent about the health inequities that kill and marginalize our people, when we can resist and ask for change? Why do we turn a blind eye to the outrageous monetization of the sick and the dying? Why are the rich allowed to live and the poor left to die? Why do we allow health care to be a business? Why do we allow this system to treat us like slaves, when we could lobby for our rights as workers? Why are we quiet?
These are the questions I ask frequently and loudly. These are the questions that I am told I shouldn’t ask, or that are too hazardous to ask. These are the questions about which I should supposedly shut up, and yet these are the questions that demand to be asked.
I am tired of seeing lives being snuffed out prematurely when a myriad things could have been done to save them, if only our conditions allowed for it. I am tired of seeing people turn themselves away from health services only because they can’t afford it. I am tired of the obvious health care discrimination on the basis of one’s economic status. I am tired of overpriced medicines and overpriced services. I am tired of people making a business out of health care. I am tired of seeing health workers being treated as sacrificial lambs. I am tired of paychecks that don’t match the hell we survive through every day. I am tired of seeing makeshift oxygen masks and calling it art. I am tired of unreasonable nurse-to-patient ratios. I am tired of having to choose between lunch breaks or carrying out doctors’ orders. I am tired of nurses being looked down on, of doctors looking down on us. I am tired of seeing health care workers running out of compassion. I am tired that, more often than not, we end up not fighting for lives anymore. I am tired that, one by one, we are becoming robots. I am tired that we sit idly by and let all these be. Truthfully, I am sick of it.
Our patients deserve better. We deserve better. Despite my oath and duty, should I love all this enough to survive, and stay?