Nurses have failed to receive the dues they deserve for a long time now, be it financially or in status. With nurses and other healthcare officials fighting on the frontlines during the coronavirus pandemic, the reasonable assumption would be their being valued and appreciated more. In an upsetting turn of events, however, nurses are being treated worse than ever before.
Women and Healthcare
Nursing is a profession that has been, and continues to be, overwhelmingly dominated by women. The ratio titling in favour of women no doubt has a lot to do with the narrative of women as caregivers which has been systematically propagated and ingrained in our collective consciousness.
Women have historically served to protect others during times of crisis like wars, as well as health crises. This pandemic is no different.
Inadequate Protection Against The Virus
Healthcare professionals globally are complaining about not being provided with adequate personal protection equipment (PPE), even while they risk their lives by coming in incredibly close contact with the virus daily.
Nurses in New York are suing the state and its hospitals, nurses held vigils outside the their hospital in Orange County, nurses in Los and Angeles and Kentucky are protesting, and the largest nurses union in the US, National Nurses Union, plan to protest at the White House today.
A group of people that is more aware than anyone else of the perils of gathering in groups is feeling the need to do so anyway. Why? Grossly inadequate and substandard safety equipment.
They’re complaining about being asked to reuse their N95 masks, about being provided unacceptably substandard PPE, risky work conditions and the hospitals refusing to protect them.
For female nurses, of course, putting themselves at risk on the frontlines comes with the added struggle of a wage gap between them and their male counterparts – a discrimination that should have been rectified with nursing being a woman dominated job and the demand for nurses being this high, but instead is even more worrisome during these financially fraught times.
Nurses Are Being Attacked and Harassed
Healthcare professionals internationally, and in India, are facing censorship virtually, and harassment and violence on the streets.
A nurse in Haryana was harassed by her neighbours and building committee who, instead of encouraging and supporting her daunting work, insisted that she not come home as she could spread the virus.
Doctors and nurses highlighting the lack of protective gear they are facing in fighting coronavirus, have been reprimanded and their social media posts censored.
Internationally, people have evicted medical professionals from their home, thrown them out of buses, and even doused them in a mixture of chlorine and water.
In India, there have been several reports and videos circulated of nurses and medical professionals being spat at, abused, pelted with stones, and assaulted.
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Applause Is Not Enough
It’s true that everyone is at risk and worried right now. However, being worried about getting infected when you step out to buy groceries or having to struggle with the lack of chaat in your life right now, cannot compare to what the women at the frontline are facing.
Pausing the show your binge-watching on Netflix to applaud for them on our balconies for five minutes is not going to cut it anymore.
They are entitled to every protective gear they need at work, and every ounce of respect and support they deserve outside of it.
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