Image taken from Tworivertheater.org
“They are a sacred kind, a holy species. And like so many precious like so many others in our precious living world, they are wildly endangered by the carelessness and disregard of those who do not have the eyes to see.” Nurses: the human form of the miracle, saving lives and mending hearts with every patient they meet.
However, the Coronavirus Pandemic is more than they ever signed up for, or expected from their job, pushing many to their brink. ‘That Kindness: Nurses in Their Own Words’ takes a hard look at how the COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted these scared nurses in these unprecedented times through testimonies that remind us of the good they do in the world.
Starring many celebrities such as Marisa Tomei, Billy Porter and Rosie O’Donnell, Eve Ensler, better known as V, takes her interviews to show and dramatize the slow build up from feel-good to frustration.
V initially begins her prologue by routing her experience with uterine cancer in 2010, which created her admiration for nurses, deeming them “radical angels of the heart.”
From there the docu-play bears the question: What is a Nurse; obviously, first and foremost, they are a caregiver of course. However, what was said afterwards struck a chord. They are advocates, someone who is caring, will cry with that patient, has that kindness and willingness to listen. A male nurse, played by Billy Porter, almost angrily declared: “You’re not a nurse if your number one goal is not a patient advocate because how can you do anything when you know something is wrong.”
One nurse even declared that they now need to know how to work IT, which was unexpected to say the least. Right off the bat, the audience is reminded that nurses do not have one job, but they take on every role. The human side of being a nurse is, in some ways, is more important than the medical aspect of it.
There is a certain perception put on nurses that they’re in it for the money, but no amount of money is worth the impact you make on other humans. Especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic, when people are taking their last breaths, nurses are the ones surrounding and supporting them.
The audience listens to testimonies about why they wanted to become a nurse, their journey to that point, the moments that changed their lives. One section, titled Jenny discussed sedation, better known as a medically induced coma. Nurses are the only voices a patient hears until they get better. “I believe you’re hearing is always there… kind of like an out of body experience.” Nurses have conversations with these patients even though they cannot respond because they know they’re all the patients have at this moment. They keep the aura positive when everything seems to go wrong.
“That, I Did Not Sign Up For!” Nurses are being treated unfairly by administration during the pandemic. With frustration in her tone, she claims how they are making nurses who are Covid-19 positive and asymptomatic come back to work. She has yet to hear from the administration that a nurse might have been exposed, instead finds out from other nurses. Unless you have symptoms, you do not get tested; “I took an oath to do no harm and God forbid I expose someone to COVID or a baby. I just don't want to hurt anybody.” Nurses who have been all over the world, have never seen anything like this, even with Ebola which we took control of right away. It’s not just the physical sickness from COVID but also the mental toll it takes on nurses.
Billy Porter’s character, Tony, speaks about how people still continue to believe the whole thing is a hoax and how so many people still have their heads buried in the sand. Or they don’t believe the numbers to which he screams How ignorant are YOU?!? He signed up for the military and put his life on the line. But as a nurse, he did not sign up for the lack of proper medical gear to take care of people who are sick. He signed up to take care of people properly and do the things necessary to make sure that the patients and staff are safe.
One nurse compares her treatment in the hospital compared to her friends overseas in Taiwan, which they couldn’t believe, especially with working at UCLA. They don’t have the proper care because of money. It’s too expensive to get some of the proper PPE because everyone needs it. International hospitals seem to care about their patients and staff more.
Nurses are starting to question their profession and their humanity. They are not only putting themselves at risk, but their families as well: “I did not sign up to die for this. I signed up to help people get better.”
The decisions aren’t being made based on what nurses and hospitals need, to do the best thing for the greatest number of people, but instead how much they cost and keeping the budget looking a certain way. It’s becoming more about the money or the computers or the documentation, rather than the patient: contradicting every aspect of the nurse’s job. Nurses often leave the profession because it is way too difficult to compete with the corporate values.
One nurse gives the example of a young boy who needed surgery. She explains how they try every avenue before surgery is done to ensure it is a last case resort. She was about to roll the child into surgery when administration stopped her because the boy’s family did not have insurance. As nurses, they believe in Medicare for all, going against the corporate values. Her hospital is non-profit, they are supposed to help everyone and give charity and she will not stop today until that child has the surgery he needed. The child had surgery, but it shouldn’t be this hard. They should not be the gatekeepers who decide who needs surgery and who do not: people over profit, corporate values over nurses values: “You save one person, you're a hero. You save a hundred lives, you’re a nurse.”
Nurses are the last line of defense and they are feeling it more than ever during the pandemic. But even before the pandemic, they could tell that the values had shifted and that they needed to advocate harder for patient care. Due to this, more nurses are becoming unionized.
Are Nurses Valued: Does the administration respect nurses? The short answer is no because “they don’t respect anything.” Porter’s character Tony claims “if you don’t respect the science, you can’t respect the people that work in the field of science. And medicine is the field of science.” Another nurse says no because the administration expects them to be the heroes, which is hard for them because they go toward danger while trying to save lives.
Nurses are practically scientists to some extent: they know how to take care of the patient and know how to do isolation. But they don’t want to be sacrificed because it’s cheaper to not provide them with masks and other PPE that they need because they’re ‘expendable.’ For the first time, nurses are becoming fearful and scared. But at the same time you can’t be fearful because of that dedication to your co-workers.
More than anything, these nurses are reminding us to wear masks and be conscientious about that and handwashing. They have been the most trusted profession for so long, so why aren’t they trusted now? Right now, too many individuals are trusting people who do not have the best interest in mind.
Nurses want us to know that this is not fake, we need to take care of ourselves, but also look out for others around us as well.
And I believe this is where people often forget about humanity. It is so common for people to write off the COVID-19 Pandemic as a hoax or ‘not as serious,’ but they look past the people on the front lines, experiencing the suffering every day. ‘That Kindness: Nurses in Their Own Words’ reminds us that nurses put their lives on the line because, even though they didn’t sign up for a pandemic, they took an oath to do no harm and their values as nurses are still to advocate and help people. They’re not expendable, they are human too.