BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — As hospitalizations for COVID-19 continue to rise in Alabama, nurses are at a breaking point. Nurses from UAB refused to clock in to work on Monday because of compensation and staffing issues.
Hospital workers are being pushed to the limit with long hours and limited bodies to help patients, and the work load is catching up to everyone on the frontlines.
“We’re tired,” Alabama State Nurses Association President Lindsey Harris said. Many would say tired is putting it mildly.
“If there is a word that is higher than exhausted, I think that would just describe every nurse right now in healthcare,” Alabama nurse Frederick Richardson said.
Richardson said the exhaustion goes beyond the physical. He said nurses witnessed all the horrors the pandemic has brought to the state.
“I’ve seen way too many people die from this virus, this disease,” Richardson said.
He said what the nurses at UAB did on Monday was more than brave because it brought to light an issue that’s been a part of the medical field for some time.
“Those nurses at UAB made it clear they love UAB. They love working at their department and their units, but they still have those concerns,” Richardson said.
These concerns include better pay for nurses and staffing shortages at hospitals. He said nurses in the state are becoming travel nurses in order to make more money. He says if this pattern continues, it can really put a strain on Alabama.
“We’re just talking about not being the lowest-paid state in the country,” Richardson said.
“We need adequate staffing for every entity within the hospital. And we just need the support,” Harris said.
But the conversation about what all hospital workers are going through during the pandemic is far from over.
“I think that we need to all come together and discuss more,” Harris said.
“It does not have to happen if everyone is willing to have the conversation,” Richardson said.
The conversation Richardson is referring to is about adequate compensation for all nurses and hospital workers in Alabama.
“And coming from someone who is seeing it, and I’m telling you, our hospital workers are tired,” Richardson said.
UAB released this statement in response to Monday’s protest:
“We recognize the pressure COVID has put on our nursing staff. As a result, we have offered pay increases, bonuses and incentives as we have been able over the course of the pandemic, and we have continued to explore additional short- and long-term opportunities to reward employees for delivering world-class care to our patients. Many of these decisions have been and will continue to be informed by a dialogue with employees we encourage through councils and committees that include staff nurses, interactions with supervisors, town halls with administrators and other forums. The concerns voiced this week by emergency department staff will help inform ongoing discussions about compensation as we adjust the rapidly evolving healthcare landscape and pressures of the pandemic. We continue to encourage the public to get vaccinated and to wear masks so we can end the pandemic sooner and relieve stress from our dedicated staff.”– University of Alabama Birmingham