A Pandemic Nurse’s Diary, by Nurse T with Timothy Sheard. New York: Hardball Press, 2020. 143 pp.
Studying A Pandemic Nurse’s Diary, notably towards 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, “One thing to Learn,” from his assortment A Puerto Rican in New York, during which he describes “a bit of working class literature, a pamphlet, a progressive e book or pamphlet” as “valuable issues.”
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 actually “one thing to learn” not simply because it gives an incisive report of healthcare staff’ experiences of the pandemic at this second but additionally due to the deeper evaluation it provides 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. Moreover, what makes this work most “valuable,” distinguishing it as working-class literature, is that it addresses staff and the office traumas they endure instantly, a problem not often lined in our nation’s literature. Nurse T and Sheard even embrace 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.
Whereas the method of vaccinating the U.S. inhabitants towards COVID-19 is underway, promising visibility and hope for an finish to the pandemic, Nurse T’s diary stresses that whereas vaccinations could 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 publish mortem care on a useless affected person, Nurse T writes, “In my silence I want the Attending Doctor may write within the loss of life certificates underneath the reason for loss of life: hospital poverty on account of refusal to of the gov’t to supply enough sources and employees for impoverished sufferers of colour.”
I discovered Nurse T’s explanations and analyses of “hospital poverty” one of the crucial illuminating elements of the diary. She, in fact highlights that “poor sufferers—particularly Black and Hispanic sufferers—are far more prone to die from Covid than their White counterparts” as a result of “poverty has given them a number of co-morbidities, like diabetes, hypertension, weight problems, and bronchial asthma.” Whereas 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 financial system and sophistication system impacted the functioning of hospitals. At one level, one in every of Nurse T’s colleagues expresses not being bitter, however simply drained: “Bored with the shortages and the outdated tools. Bored with the politicians protesting they’ll’t afford to boost our reimbursement charges. Bored with the federal government—city-state, and federal—funneling sources to the gold-plated medical facilities in Manhattan.” And Nurse T explains that the “Ritchie Wealthy” personal 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’ve entry to essentially the most superior medicine and finest tools and are sometimes sought by Fortune 500 firms 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. Whereas the pandemic presents a problem, it would very properly have been manageable if we had a humane financial system designed to fulfill human want slightly than produce revenue.
Nurse T represents the failure as political as properly. Whereas she movingly paperwork many experiences with sufferers, one which stands out is the affected person who listened to right-wing pundits corresponding to Trump and drank a bottle of cleansing fluid, destroying his esophagus and doing severe everlasting harm to his physique. Even one of the best well being care, she laments, can not counteract this political poison.
Most vivid and essential within the diary is just Nurse T’s illustration of her work and the traumatic toll it takes on her and her colleagues. As a result of they work in an infectious surroundings, the nurses keep in inns and infrequently see their households. As a result of they don’t have correct tools as a result of the hospital doesn’t have up-to-date filtration and air flow techniques, the office is way extra harmful and lethal than it must be. As a result of politicians and the inhabitants at massive doesn’t take the pandemic severely and promote fundamental precautions, they’re having to deal with many extra sufferers than they would wish to in any other case. As a result of the hospital is ill-equipped, they’ll’t deal with sufferers optimally.
Whereas there may be 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 financial system.
A lot of the trauma and loss of life the nurses expertise are due much less to the pandemic than to the system we created and the politics we follow.
“Come on, America, get your act collectively,” Nurse T urges.
She desires us to acknowledge that labor solidarity is human solidarity. The inhumane working circumstances don’t simply hobble and damage nurses, they influence all of us. All of us 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 % of nurses within the U.S. are ladies. It’s no secret that ladies 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.
Whereas we see healthcare staff represented on the nightly information lately, drawing consideration to the unbelievable pressure and hazard they’re going through, Nurse T provides 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. Whereas the pandemic magnifies these ills, they may survive the pandemic and proceed to undermine our lives if we don’t act to remodel 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 Research Affiliation, the Worldwide Labor Communications Affiliation, the Nationwide Federation of Press Ladies, and the Illinois Girl’s Press Affiliation.