A Pandemic Nurse’s Diary, by Nurse T with Timothy Sheard. New York: Hardball Press, 2020. 143 pp.
Reading A Pandemic Nurse’s Diary, significantly in opposition to prevalent media representations of healthcare staff’ experiences throughout this pandemic, dropped at thoughts for me the opening phrases of the sketch by the U.S. radical author Jesús Colón, “Something to Read,” from his assortment A Puerto Rican in New York, through which he describes “a piece of working class literature, a pamphlet, a progressive book or pamphlet” as “precious things.”
Authored by a nurse who simply goes by Nurse T, together with Timothy Sheard, himself a former nurse in addition to founding father of Hardball Press, one of many main publishers within the U.S. dedicated to publishing working-class literature, A Pandemic Nurse’s Diary is the truth is “something to read” not simply because it offers an incisive document of healthcare staff’ experiences of the pandemic at this second but in addition due to the deeper evaluation it gives from a employee’s perspective into U.S. class society and the way it impacts individuals’s well being and the supply of well being care within the U.S. Additionally, what makes this work most “precious,” distinguishing it as working-class literature, is that it addresses staff and the office traumas they endure instantly, a difficulty not often lined in our nation’s literature. Nurse T and Sheard even embody a ultimate part of workout routines and meditations for nurses and healthcare staff to assist them address the trauma of this work, intensified throughout this pandemic.
While the method of vaccinating the U.S. inhabitants in opposition to COVID-19 is underway, promising visibility and hope for an finish to the pandemic, Nurse T’s diary stresses that whereas vaccinations might present some safety from the virus, the pandemic has additionally exacerbated and draw into aid longstanding and deeply rooted social ills, usually structural in nature, that can not be cured by any vaccination, irrespective of how highly effective.
At one level, whereas performing put up mortem care on a lifeless affected person, Nurse T writes, “In my silence I wish the Attending Physician could write in the death certificate under the cause of death: hospital poverty due to refusal to of the gov’t to provide adequate resources and staff for impoverished patients of color.”
I discovered Nurse T’s explanations and analyses of “hospital poverty” one of the crucial illuminating facets of the diary. She, after all highlights that “poor patients—especially Black and Hispanic patients—are way more likely to die from Covid than their White counterparts” as a result of “poverty has given them multiple co-morbidities, like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and asthma.” While I knew one thing of those well being disparities conditioned by our racist class system, I used to be much less conscious of how the capitalist political economic system and sophistication system impacted the functioning of hospitals. At one level, one among Nurse T’s colleagues expresses not being bitter, however simply drained: “Tired of the shortages and the outdated equipment. Tired of the politicians protesting they can’t afford to raise our reimbursement rates. Tired of the government—city-state, and federal—funneling resources to the gold-plated medical centers in Manhattan.” And Nurse T explains that the “Ritchie Rich” non-public hospitals, usually already worthwhile with rich sufferers and personal donors, obtain Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements thrice as her hospital does for a similar procedures. They have entry to essentially the most superior medicine and finest tools and are sometimes sought by Fortune 500 corporations for experimental drug trials.
What Nurse T reveals in her portrayal of the pandemic are the failings of our class system to serve the well being wants of all. While the pandemic presents a problem, it’d very properly have been manageable if we had a humane economic system designed to fulfill human want quite than produce revenue.
Nurse T represents the failure as political as properly. While she movingly paperwork many experiences with sufferers, one which stands out is the affected person who listened to right-wing pundits akin to Trump and drank a bottle of cleansing fluid, destroying his esophagus and doing critical everlasting harm to his physique. Even the very best well being care, she laments, can’t counteract this political poison.
Most vivid and necessary within the diary is solely Nurse T’s illustration of her work and the traumatic toll it takes on her and her colleagues. Because they work in an infectious setting, the nurses keep in accommodations and infrequently see their households. Because they don’t have correct tools as a result of the hospital doesn’t have up-to-date filtration and air flow methods, the office is much extra harmful and lethal than it must be. Because politicians and the inhabitants at massive doesn’t take the pandemic significantly and promote primary precautions, they’re having to deal with many extra sufferers than they would wish to in any other case. Because the hospital is ill-equipped, they will’t deal with sufferers optimally.
While there’s an inherent traumatic dimension to this work, Nurse T highlights the excess trauma she and different healthcare staff endure that outcomes from the on a regular basis operations of our class system and political economic system.
Much of the trauma and dying the nurses expertise are due much less to the pandemic than to the system we created and the politics we observe.
“Come on, America, get your act together,” Nurse T urges.
She needs us to acknowledge that labor solidarity is human solidarity. The inhumane working situations don’t simply hobble and damage nurses, they affect all of us. We all share in labor’s pursuits.
And all of us share within the pursuits of gender equality and of ladies staff. It must be famous, whereas Nurse T overtly addresses racial and sophistication inequalities, that roughly 90 p.c of nurses within the U.S. are ladies. It’s no secret that girls and their work have traditionally been devalued and fewer acknowledged.
Given this historic context, A Pandemic Nurse’s Diary should even be acknowledged for powerfully giving voice to ladies staff in U.S. society and within the labor motion.
While we see healthcare staff represented on the nightly information today, drawing consideration to the unimaginable pressure and hazard they’re going through, Nurse T offers us a broader view, past the pandemic, to the underling ills of our society that desperately want addressing for the well being and humanity of us all. While the pandemic magnifies these ills, they’ll survive the pandemic and proceed to undermine our lives if we don’t act to rework class society and its many inequities.
Tim Libretti is a professor of U.S. literature and tradition at a state college in Chicago. A protracted-time progressive voice, he has revealed many tutorial and journalistic articles on tradition, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has obtained awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, the National Federation of Press Women, and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.