Sarah Warren, 24, is sick and tired of dealing with the fallout of the pandemic. Like many of her colleagues, she’s seen more than her fair share of staffing shortages, administrative woes, and abuse from patients over the last couple years. In a recent post on TikTok, she urged her fellow nurses to walk off the job if they are facing similar issues in the workplace.
Calling All Nurses
Warren, who works in a progressive care facility in Florida, started garnering attention on social media after one of her posts went viral on TikTok. In the clip, she explained that one of her patients tried to strangle her with her own stethoscope back in 2019.
“It was traumatizing,” she said of the incident. “I was doing my initial assessment on a patient and had my stethoscope around my neck, and the patient grabbed onto it with two hands and pulled me backwards.”
She didn’t reveal the identity or gender of the patient out of privacy concerns but said they were suffering from dementia at the time. They also didn’t have a history of violence or assault.
“I had to use so much strength to pull away that I thought I was going to break my stethoscope,” she added.
Warren chose not to report the incident to her superiors.
“There seems to be this weird idea amongst nurses that things like this happen in nurses,” she said. “That violence comes with the territory, it comes with the job.”
The clip received more than 207,000 views in a single day. Lots of nurses took to the comments to share their sympathy and frustration.
“We need a national walkout. It’ll take six hours before we get everything we deserve,” wrote an ICU nurse. Warren showed her support for the idea by writing, “Regarding a national walkout, I think it’ll happen soon.”
Warren also explained that she’s getting ready to scale back her time as a nurse because of all the abuse she’s experienced during the pandemic. She will go from full time to part time starting this January.
“I suffered severe mental burnout and anguish during 2020,” she said. “What contributed to that was the shortage of PPE — having to reuse N95 masks for multiple shifts for weeks at a time.”
She cited a lack of essential staff, including certified nursing assistants that help monitor patients and environmental service workers that provide general housekeeping services.
But when she asked for more staff, the hospital said it couldn’t afford to hire more staff due to budgetary concerns.
“They’ve already reduced our benefits and took away our annual raises,” Warren lamented. “And when I reached out to my [chief nursing officer] for a mere one-dollar raise, he said it would take $2 million to give everyone in our system a one-dollar raise, which would bankrupt the system.”
The CNO offered to give every staff member a 2020 commemorative coin to help ease the stress and anxiety.
“I told him, ‘Hell no!’” Warren said. “But that exchange helped me see that I wasn’t worth one more dollar to my hospital system.”
She believes a national walkout is the best way to show administrators that they need to pay more attention to their nurses.
“This shell of a system needs to realize that nurses can’t even provide the quality treatment that people deserve and are paying for because we’re so under-resourced,” she said. “Doctors have held walkouts before, and it’s not about abandoning our sick patients. A nurse walkout would be a demonstration to ensure that everyone receives adequate pay, benefits, support and care.”
When asked about the comment, the American Nursing Association said, “we can’t speak to nurse walkouts at this time.”
Supporters of the walkout are taking to Twitter where they regularly urge Warren to help spearhead the movement.
“Do it. These things make history and are the only things that improve working conditions, historically,” wrote one of her supporters.
“Pick a threshold, as a group. Do everything you can until it’s met, then all of you walk. Maybe when ER wait times hit 96 hours, or when incoming ambulances have to be redirected more than 500 miles [change will happen],” another person wrote.
However, many nurses expressed their concern with the idea of abandoning their patients.
But registered nurse Imma Helper believes the walkout is well underway. “Nurses are against a national walkout without realizing that the walkout is already happening,” she wrote on Twitter.
“I’m not sure it’s in our emotional wiring to be made to feel like we’ve abandoned those in our care,” Helper added. “I think we’d collectively feel that way, even if we left bedside nursing or the nursing field.”
Another nurse offered her support for Helper’s claims by writing, “We need to get over that immediately. It has been weaponized against us. A shock [and] awe moment does not abandon our patients (or students). It demands others (admin) to support our effort and ensures caregivers are around for people who’ll need us in the future.”
And Warren agreed.
“Our empathy for patients has been used against us nurses for so long, and that’s why no one thinks we’d really walkout,” she said. “But if we don’t do something drastic soon, high-quality patient care will no longer exist.”