The Reason Some Nurses Are Quitting Amid The Pandemic

As Covid-19 exposed overwhelmed hospital workers to infection, French physician Alain Colombié exposed himself to the world in a nude photo that showed him with his hands placed over his oui-oui at his office. Colombié wasn't playing doctor with himself but playing the role of protester. He managed to mask his privates in the picture but couldn't adequately mask his face at work due to a lack of PPE (personal protective equipment). The Guardian quotes him as calling doctors "cannon fodder" in the war against the pandemic.

In late April, a group of German doctors followed suit, or rather birthday suit. One study found that Germany's hospitals lacked 100 million one-use masks, 50 million filter masks, and tens of millions of other vital supplies such as gloves. The naked truth of the matter is that the cannon fodder is fed up, and numerous hospital workers around the world have stopped working entirely. Via CTV News, in March, nurses and doctors in Zimbabwe went on strike after having to ask families to provide basic essentials such as clean water and gloves. The Independent Balkan News Agency writes that Romanian nurses and doctors have resigned in droves over poor protection.

In the U.S., nurses have reported being ordered not to wear masks even when they're available while others have resorted to donning Halloween masks amid PPE shortages. Some have responded with walk-outs. Others walked away entirely.

Not all heroes wear masks, but these heroes need to

When ProPublica interviewed 15 nurses and doctors from across the U.S. about their facilities' handling of the pandemic, they made a lot of unsettling revelations. Florida emergency room nurse Naomi Moya worked at a hospital that barred staff from wearing N95 masks when not treating patients diagnosed with COVID-19. Of course, when dealing with an airborne illness, there was no guarantee that she wouldn't catch it from someone else and unwittingly infect a patient, coworker, or member of her own family.

Moya decided to bring her own N95 mask from home, but the hospital immediately demanded that Moya remove it, so she agreed to go on unpaid leave. An anonymous nurse in Chicago blew the whistle to CBS about a policy forbidding staff to wear N95 mask the hospital's hallways. The nurse asserted that "all of our masks at our hospitals are under lock and key and video surveillance." The nurse masked her identity for fear of retribution, and her concerns seem justified. Some who spoke to ProPublica alleged they were suspended or fired for taking additional steps to protect themselves.

They didn't sign up to die or endanger others

On May 10, NBC reported that at least 79 U.S. nurses had died from COVID-19 while nearly 10,000 had fallen ill. Bronx-based nurse Benny Mathew told NPR that coworkers "carried this virus home and made their partners, kids and parents sick." Some people have portrayed their suffering as a noble sacrifice, turning hospital workers into much-sung heroes of a medical horror story, but many nurses are involuntary martyrs.

In late March, CBS shared images of desperate PPE-deprived hospital workers who wore ski masks, Halloween costumes, and even plastic sheet covers meant for their children's homework. Others have wrapped their faces in scarves or bandanas. Sick and tired of being overexposed and overworked, nurses from 139 hospitals across the country held a protest in early May, per USA Today. Some have simply quit to protect their families, their patients, and their own lives.

Many nurses have come under fire for resigning. They're told they "signed up" for the risks. But their families didn't. An ex-New Mexico nurse who quit her job to protect her husband and children took exception to that framing, explaining, "We're told we're soldiers. Well, you don't send soldiers to war without a gun and expect them to do their job, but you are doing that to us."