On Monday, we started Nurses Week by laying 1,000 white roses across the steps of the Capitol and shared reflections that nurses and community members sent in from across the state to remember and honor the more than 26,000 Pennsylvanians lost to COVID, and to advocate together for a better path forward – starting with safe staffing.
Each of those 1,000 roses represented 26 people who lost their lives to COVID, and far too many whose lives could have been saved if we had a healthcare system that put patients first.
We were able to take time to do something we’ve never had time to do, or didn’t allow ourselves to have time for. That is to really have a space where we could acknowledge the fear and the disappointment, the grieving, and loss that nurses don’t get a chance to do when you’ve got a million things to do at work, and when you get home, you’re just exhausted.
We made a space to truly acknowledge what a hardship this past year has been and to honor those we lost.
But it doesn’t stop there. We took a step to honor their memory and turn that grief into action by advocating for changes in the healthcare system to address the root of the problems that made this pandemic so much more painful.
Following the vigil, we took 40 roses each to the offices of all 23 members of the House Health Committee, told them each rose represented 650 people who lost their lives to COVID, and made clear we need them to hold an emergency hearing on the Patient Safety Act.
Whether it was the media at the vigil, the couple whose daughter is a nurse who saw us on TV in the morning and joined us at the Capitol by the afternoon, or the faces of the legislators we spoke to, for once I really felt like people heard us, and it gave me hope.
Don’t get me wrong, I know it’ll still be a fight ahead, and I know not every legislator we gave roses to is now supporting the bill. But I know they heard us. I know that as more and more nurses across the state keep speaking out, they will continue to hear us, and as we build a more and more powerful voice to advocate for our patients, they will be unable to ignore us.
Whether it is for healing, for action, for hope, or for all three that brings you, I hope you get a chance to join us for one of the vigils around the state over the next couple of weeks.
Below you’ll find links to the press coverage from yesterday’s vigil.
Michelle Boyle RN