Nurses protest nationwide for safer workplace conditions

National Nurses United registered nurses held a national day of action Thursday to demand that hospitals invest more in safe staffing.

Within California, nurses condemned the decision by state health officials last week to temporarily allow asymptomatic health workers who test positive for COVID to continue working without isolating or additional testing.

To limit the spread of the virus, asymptomatic nurses would only treat patients who are already Covid-19 positive and would wear N-95 masks and gloves.

State health officials made the decision amid dire hospital staffing shortages brought on by surging cases of omicron. The California Department of Public Health will re-evaluate the decision next month, depending on the omicron caseload.

Still, even before the latest public health decision, nurses nationwide have been stretched thin, and a growing number of them have considered leaving the profession, according to a survey of thousands of nurses last October through December conducted by National Nurses United.

Among survey respondents, 83 percent said at least half of their shifts were unsafely staffed.

Thursday's protesters demanded that President Biden follow through on his campaign promise to protect nurses and prioritize public health. They also called for hospitals to improve nurse training and increase the number of permanent nursing staff at hospitals.

Within the Bay Area, protests were held inside and outside hospitals in Santa Cruz, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Rosa.