The nurses are sick and tired!
As COVID cases continue climbing in the wake of the overpowering Omicron variant — sparking a whopping 28,911 confirmed cases in New York City alone over the last seven days — overworked, understaffed and abused nurses nationwide are on the brink of a walkout.
“People don’t even realize that a walkout has already begun,” registered nurse Sarah Warren, 24, told The Post. Warren works in the progressive care unit at a medical facility in south Florida, but chose not to name her hospital due to privacy concerns.
“Nurses have been leaving the bedside at unprecedented rates since the pandemic hit,” she added. “And many are never going back because the trauma and systemic mistreatment has been too much.”
Warren sparked the now-trending conversation about a national nurse walkout in a TikTok clip shared Monday, following a viral post in which she revealed that an unruly patient once strangled her with her own stethoscope.
“It was traumatizing,” she explained of the 2019 incident. “I was doing my initial assessment on a patient and had my stethoscope around my neck, and the patient grabbed onto it with two hands and pulled me backwards.”
Warren — who chose not to reveal the patient’s gender — said the person was suffering with some dementia, but had no previously reported outbursts of violence on health care workers.
“I had to use so much strength to pull away that I thought I was going to break my stethoscope,” she added.
And she never reported the incident to hospital administrators.
“There seems to be this weird idea amongst nurses that things like this happen in nurses,” Warren said. “That violence comes with the territory, it comes with the job.”
But nurses, by and large, are no longer willing to excuse the abuse.
In response to the clip, which has yielded over 207,000 views in one day, a commentator and purported COVID ICU nurse said: “We need a national walkout. It’ll take six hours before we get everything we deserve.” Warren concurred, writing, “Regarding a national walkout, I think it’ll happen soon.”
She’s already reduced her bedside presence, transitioning from full-time to part-time nursing in January 2021 due to the agony she endured on the job the prior year.
“I suffered severe mental burnout and anguish during 2020,” she said. “What contributed to that was the shortage of PPE — having to reuse N95 masks for multiple shifts for weeks at a time.”
She went on to cite a shortage of nurse support staff members — including certified nurse assistants, who provide basic care to patients, and environmental service workers, who provide housekeeping services to patients and health care workers.
And when it came to requesting more money for the hospital’s fatigued employees, the admins wouldn’t budge on the budget.
“They’ve already reduced our benefits and took away our annual raises,” Warren lamented. “And when I reached out to my [chief nursing officer] for a mere one-dollar raise, he said it would take $2 million to give everyone in our system a one-dollar raise, which would bankrupt the system.”
Instead, her CNO suggested appeasing stress-ridden staffers with a 2020 commemorative coin.
“I told him, ‘Hell no!’” Warren said. “But that exchange helped me see that I wasn’t worth one more dollar to my hospital system.”
And she believes a collective walkout might show the system how unjustly it’s treating its most essential workers.
“This shell of a system needs to realize that nurses can’t even provide the quality treatment that people deserve and are paying for because we’re so under-resourced,” she said. “Doctors have held walkouts before, and it’s not about abandoning our sick patients. A nurse walkout would be a demonstration to ensure that everyone receives adequate pay, benefits, support and care.”
When reached by The Post for comment, the American Nursing Association said they can provide a spokesperson about nursing/COVID in general — but “we can’t speak to nurse walkouts at this time.”
But supporters of the impending movement took to Twitter, encouraging Warren to lead the charge in the great nurse exodus.
“Do it. These things make history and are the only things that improve working conditions, historically,” one advocate tweeted in part.
“Pick a threshold, as a group. Do everything you can until it’s met, then all of you walk. Maybe when ER wait times hit 96 hours, or when incoming ambulances have to be redirected more than 500 miles [change will happen],” rallied another.
But while a number of hyped health care workers and their online allies strategized a mass retreat, other nurses expressed regret over the thought of abandoning those in need.
“Nurses are against a national walkout without realizing that the walkout is already happening. #medtwittee #NurseTwitter”” Imma Helper stated on Twitter.
Imma Helper on Twitter stated: “I’m not sure it’s in our emotional wiring to be made to feel like we’ve abandoned those in our care,” added another nurse. “I think we’d collectively feel that way, even if we left bedside nursing or the nursing field.”
To that point, another nurse said: “We need to get over that immediately. It has been weaponized against us. A shock [and] awe moment does not abandon our patients (or students). It demands others (admin) to support our effort and ensures caregivers are around for people who’ll need us in the future.”
And Warren agrees.
“Our empathy for patients has been used against us nurses for so long, and that’s why no one thinks we’d really walkout,” she said. “But if we don’t do something drastic soon, high-quality patient care will no longer exist.”