Another View: Nurses on the side of patients, not profits

In a piece of irony worthy of the Grinch, The Bee published an opinion article on Dec. 20 (“Nurses union preyed upon our Ebola fears”) attacking the morality of registered nurses shortly after the release of the annual Gallup survey that once again identified nursing as the most trusted profession. In fact, since 2005, at least 80 percent of Americans have said nurses have high ethics and honesty.

We hold that trust with our patients and communities as a sacred bond.

For good reason, in their most vulnerable moments, patients and families know that they can count on nurses to care for them, and to stand up for them.

That’s not good enough for some, like the author of the piece who is funded by the notorious Koch brothers. Rather than trust nurses, he believes hospital executives know what’s best for patients.

The Bee should be celebrating the groundbreaking role registered nurses played in safeguarding California patients from an Ebola outbreak by establishing the highest standards for personal protective equipment, rather than publishing the views of an out-of-state political consultant who lacks respect for our profession.

Hospitals such as Sutter Tracy had refused to adopt those standards, so Gov. Jerry Brown and Cal-OSHA had to step in to ensure optimal safety for nurses and patients.

Patients and their families expect nurses to fight for them at the bedside, even when it conflicts with the profit motive of far too many hospital managers, insurance companies and others who put the bottom line above patient interest.

Such action is not always popular with those like the Koch brothers, who believe we should all be on our own in a world without caring, compassion and community.

A few highlights of the gains made over the last 12 months illustrate why nurses continue to earn the trust of the public year after year:

Elevating patient safety standards. RNs won regulations in several states requiring hospitals to maintain workplace violence prevention plans and safe patient handling. Safe nurse-to-patient staffing protections are now part of all NNU contracts.

Campaigning for environmental justice. RNs know firsthand how their patients can suffer from environmental toxins, extreme weather and other aspects of the climate crisis. This year, RNs played a leading role in opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, mobilized nurses from around the nation to protest the Detroit water shut-off, calling it a threat to public health, and participated in the United Nations Climate Change Summit in Peru.

Protecting and improving Medicare for all. NNU members continued the fight for universal health care through free health screenings and legislative initiatives from Maine to California.

Championing the fight for economic justice with a tax on Wall Street. With an economic crisis continuing to affect working families, seniors and children, nurses stepped up the call for a tax on Wall Street speculation to fund programs to redress economic inequality and address other basic needs.

Simply put, the 190,000 registered nurse members of National Nurses United will always be on the side of patients and the public.

Deborah Burger, RN, is co-president of National Nurses United/California Nurses Association