The Erasure of Nurses
“Health care employers must begin timely reporting of all health care personnel infected with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) who work in the District of Columbia (D.C.).” – Source: D.C. Health, 2020
On July 15, 2020, Mayor Muriel Bowser (Washington D.C.) launched a disease surveillance and investigation initiative in response to an extraordinary uptick in infection rates throughout the nation’s capitol. With a death toll nearing six hundred victims, the proactive strategy of “contact tracing” is a remarkable, evidenced-based approach to mitigating virus spread within the densely populated megalopolis. In fact, the practice has grown increasingly popular since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, as Johns Hopkins University amassed greater than 400,000 participants for their groundbreaking, distance-learning tracer course.
Above and beyond the intricacies of thwarting an unwelcomed visitor in our midst, one must question the efficacy of strategies that demand “timely reporting” by health care personnel, specifically Nurses. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule “provides strong legal protections to ensure the privacy of individual health information, without interfering with patient access to treatment, health care operations, or quality of care.”
By definition, the mission statement reads characteristically bold and forward leaning; yet, a close examination reveals vague nomenclature throughout.
Positive progress towards excellence, that’s what we want. If you stand still and settle for the status quo, that’s exactly what you will have.Army Brigadier General (ret.) Hazel Johnson-Brown (1927-2011)
According to the D.C. Health mandate, a Nurse who is infected with COVID-19 obstructs the quality of care provided for patients. Yet, that which the plan fails to address is the privacy of individual health information for the most vulnerable community, medical personnel. Nationwide furloughs and hospital layoffs have decimated the Nursing community, piling an extra layer of stress atop a structurally defunct system.
Notably, the request for a reexamination of policy is not a supportive stance for lax guidelines or a return to the days of old; rather it serves as a charge to gingerly step backwards and view the complexities from a holistic angle. Collecting personal health information from Nurses and securing said information within a government databank is a questionable practice that must be address by way of civil discourse and the application of common sense.
Perpetually ready for the call to serve, the U.S. has recorded approximately six hundred health care worker deaths since the disease emerged. Such alarming statistics highlight a systemic problem that plagues our global health care structure; the dehumanization of Nurses and erasure of their civil liberties in an effort to (fill in the blank).
1510 EDT – Author/Illustrator: Madinah Slaise, MSN, RN-BC
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