For those who stood beside us

By Rachel Hanneman, RN

On March 13, 2020, the first of many Peacetime Emergency Acts was implemented in Minnesota. Since that time, we have endured a raging pandemic, social unrest and unnerving threats to the foundations of our stability. Gratitude was tested in unimaginable ways as citizens across the state hunkered down for an unprecedented time indoors. Unfortunately, the opportunity for safe harbor was not granted to all workers across the state, and approximately one million Minnesotans still answered the call of the time clock.

Peace of mind was granted by way of hot meals being prepared for carry out, shelves being stocked with food and games, and hospitals being staffed by an immense team of personnel. Funds were set aside to help those unable to work without hesitation, but with no mention of pay at the end of the tunnel for those of us deemed “essential.” It has been a year and a half since workers from all walks of life rose to the unthinkable challenge of providing for our state, and yet we still persist without any indication of relief for our sacrifices.

The might of the nurse shone through in undeniable ways last year. We worked long, excruciating hours as the demands of the healthcare system began an uphill battle we have yet to come out of. But just as restrictions were lifted and signs of “back to normal” began to emerge, the efforts of the service industry were also lifted. Grocery store workers, sanitation workers, teachers and caregivers, and so many others who made everyday life comfortable for the rest of us have been shrugged to the wayside. The unity we once shared simply dissolved when discussion about relief for those who provided essential services became a reality. The nurses who provided care at the bedside could not have done so without the assurance that the other essential services were being provided for us.

MNA stands with all of those who understood how their contributions at the workplace gave security to all of us. Unfortunately, workers who were expected to report to work and who missed out on pay during quarantine are now being excluded from any form of recognition due to “limited funding” being provided by lawmakers. Risk assumed wasn’t limited. The virus did not discriminate based on job role. Yet committee members want to claim that, due to the amount of funding set aside, only those who took “the most risk” are deserving.

While nurses indisputably struggled with the uncertainties of exposure and trauma from our experiences, we still had some peace of mind provided through PPE. Other workers weren’t as lucky, as many people used these workers’ workspaces as platforms for defiance. Pandemic fatigue also haunted these spaces, and masks began to be shed prematurely.

While no amount of money can replace the lasting experiences of those of us who showed up to work, excluding a massive amount of others to strengthen the pot isn’t an expression of gratitude. Pitting workers against each other isn’t a solution.

Nurses are hailed as advocates for their patients. Now we are advocates for those who stood beside us. After all, representing those who have served since March is essential.