After surprising the National Teacher of the Year on Thursday, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden stopped by Las Vegas’ University Medical Center to thank nurses in honor of National Nurses Day.
National Nurses Day, which is observed annually on May 6, kicks off National Nurses Week, a series of celebrations hail the health heroes and their contributions, which culminates in International Nurses Day, observed on May 12, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birthday.
Dr. Biden, joined by Nevada Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto and Reps. Susie Lee and Dina Titus, as well as the Service Employees International Union, handed out frosted sugar cookies shaped like the White House to thank nurses on their shift change.
“Throughout the pandemic, our nation's nurses have put the needs of their patients before themselves,” Rep. Titus wrote on Twitter, expressing gratitude for nurses and “their life-saving work.”
“We owe [nurses] a debt of gratitude for their tireless work taking care of us during the pandemic,” Sen. Rosen wrote.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a tremendous strain on nurses and the nursing profession at large. According to a recent poll from the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, 6 in 10 health care workers said the coronavirus pandemic has led to burnout, while 3 in 10 have considered exiting the profession.
And the demand for nurses has grown exponentially amid the pandemic. According to Incredible Health, a hiring platform for nurses, demand for ICU, PCU, cardiac care and emergency nurses spiked 186% in 2020 compared to pre-pandemic times.
There was also 400% increase in New York-based nurses seeking new jobs on the Incredible Health platform between March and April of 2020, amid the state’s spike in COVID-19 cases, with over 30% of nurses desiring to leave the state to find new jobs.
Nurses have also reported feeling overworked — 34% reported working additional shifts to pitch in with COVID-19 patients in May 2020, while 58% of nurses reported less family time and 44% reported less leisure time in Feb. 2021, according to Incredible Health.
According to the study, 73% of nurses said they had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of March 2021, but 23% of nurses contracted COVID-19 within the last year. And while only 37% of nurses reported receiving appropriate PPE in May 2020, 80% now say they are being provided proper safety equipment.
But health care workers are also reporting post-traumatic stress disorder and depression at alarming rates, according to a Yale School of Public Health survey. According to the study of thousands of health workers, about a quarter of health care workers showed signs of PTSD, while nearly half had probable alcohol use disorder.
This year, to honor nurses, politicians and public figures are urging Americans to thank their health heroes — and get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“After the year we have had, please thank a nurse this week,” Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse wrote on Twitter.
“Nurses have done so much for us over this last year. They deserve safe and respectful workplaces, good pay, and all of the PPE they need,” Florida Rep. Val Demings wrote, adding, “Show YOUR appreciation by getting vaccinated.”
Former presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., urged an investment in child care to help nurses and other essential workers: “If nurses and other essential workers can’t go to work, our whole country is at risk. If parents can’t do their jobs, they can’t make ends meet or build some security. As a country, we need to invest in quality, affordable child care.”