Nurse Jane Hopkins Joins Biden's COVID-19 Advisory Board
Updated November 30, 2020
Last week, an RN's petition to add a nurse to Biden's COVID-19 Task Force went viral. This week, Biden added a nurse to the COVID advisory board. Coincidence? Maybe.
Seattle Nurse Jane Hopkins, RNMH, is one of three new members to join the COVID-19 advisory board, Joe Biden announced this past Saturday.
According to the press release, Hopkins specializes in mental health and is a member of Washington State’s COVID Task Force, Safe Start Advisory Board, the Washington Workforce Board, the 1199NW Training Fund, and the Washington State Labor Council. She is also the Executive Vice President of SEIU Healthcare 1199 NW.
Over the past 20 years, Hopkins has worked in mental health at Harborview Medical Center and Snoqualmie Hospital in Washington State. She immigrated to the U.S. from Sierra Leone in 2000 and is a recipient of the Black Lives matter Award from the SEIU Washington State AFRAM Caucus.
Jane Hopkins is joined by Jill Jim, Ph.D., MPH, MPA who is the Executive Director at Navajo Nation Department of Health, and epidemiologist David Michaels, who is a Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health.
“As COVID-19 surges across the country, I need a team advising me and a transition that offers diverse perspectives and viewpoints. Ms. Hopkins, Dr. Jim, and Dr. Michaels will strengthen the board’s work and help ensure that our COVID-19 planning will address inequities in health outcomes and the workforce,” said Biden.
The COVID-19 advisory board is comprised of public health experts who are tasked with helping Joe Biden and Kamala Harris plan a “robust and aggressive response to contain the virus,” says the press release.
Original article published on 11/23/2020
Nurses Are Missing From Biden's COVID Task Force, Sign the Petition to Change That
As President-Elect Joe Biden began assembling his COVID-19 task force, many people praised his collection of health experts, including a surgeon, the former head of a vaccine development agency, and a biodefense specialist. But if you ask Theresa Brown, a Pittsburgh-based nurse, writer, and frequent New York Times contributor, there’s one crucial person missing from the pandemic task force: a nurse.
“I couldn’t believe when the Biden task force came out and there wasn’t a nurse on it,” Brown tells Nurse.org. “There needs to be someone there who understands how nurses work and what their constraints are.”
Brown believes so strongly that a nurse is needed on the task force that she even started a Change.org petition to urge the President-Elect to consider adding an RN to the team. And if she’s successful, she could just add to her resume of making Presidential history–in 2009, Brown was invited to Washington, where President Obama quoted her writings on healthcare reform. Seeing how a President could be impacted by a nurse’s first-hand story of patient care illustrates the importance of making sure the administration who will be inheriting a national pandemic has the chance to listen to nurses too.
What the Petition Says
In the petition, Brown explained the importance of including a nurse, noting that along with being the largest group of health care employees in the U.S. and most trusted profession, nurses are the ones working the frontlines of COVID care in hospitals, residential facilities, and the community. “This Task Force needs a nurse who understands the challenges of frontline care because American patients deserve the best plan possible for getting COVID under control,” she wrote.
The nurse, who has a background in oncology, home hospice, and education, tells Nurse.org that while doctors are a necessary addition to the task force in their own right, unfortunately, even great and respectful doctors don’t always recognize the valuable perspectives that nurses have. “Historically, nurses have been seen as assistants as doctors, not as professionals in our own right,” she points out. “As healthcare has gotten more technological, nurses have had to become more knowledgeable and our contribution to healthcare is growing in responsibility–but the people who talk about healthcare haven’t really caught up to that.”
This is why it might make sense for the people who talk about healthcare and nurses to be one and the same. Imagine that, right?
With a goal of 5,000 signatures, Brown’s petition has already gathered 5,000 signatures and counting. Many of the petition signatures reveal fresh insight into the perspectives of the very nurses we count on for routine visits, new diagnoses, and emergency situations. “Nurses have the greatest allegiance to patients and the closest proximity,” wrote one signer. “Our voices need to be heard. If nurses were in charge of the healthcare system we would see better patient care. We know so much more than we are ever given credit for.”
Brown acknowledges that the goals of the Biden-Harris transition website are “fantastic,” but points out that a nurse’s perspective on the COVID-19 task force will provide insight into aspects of the pandemic that no other health expert can. For instance, Brown points out that even for simple things like a vaccine strategy, a nurse is the one who knows what it’s like to give those shots and train others to give injections. On a more widespread scale, nurses are the ones carrying out contact tracing and triaging patients, and overseeing public health strategies. And on a practical level, nurses desperately need to know they are being heard after months of working the frontlines with no end in sight.
“It’s just common sense,” says Brown. “Nurses need to feel like someone is looking out for them.”
Giving Nurses a Voice
Brown’s not the only one who thinks nurses need a place at Biden’s task force table. She’s part of a growing number of nurses speaking out about their lack of representation, joining their voices with the hashtag #NurseonTaskForce.
"To not have a nurse on Biden's task force would be a failure to our nation," - Alice Benjamin
“It is imperative for the Biden-Harris COVID task force to include a nurse, we are the heartbeat of healthcare.
Nurses are the great communicators of care and the glue of the interdisciplinary team making sure all providers are on the same page. Not only are we talking about the care, but we are actually physically providing it. We know what it takes to execute plans of care at ground zero. We provide care systematically and comprehensively through the lens of our nursing process of assessment, planning, diagnosing, interventions, and evaluations.
I often think back to how differently things could have been if there were a nurse on the original task force under the Trump-Pence administration. Nurse’s voices matter,
- Nurse’s voices matter - we spend the most time with patients and effectively communicate with a wide array of people.
- Nurses have excellent bedside mannerism and we are holistic in our approach.
- Not only do we understand and disseminate complex research but, we also have the ability to interpret the findings with our patient’s best interest in mind.
The nurse for this task force must be a relentless advocate for patient care. They should be practical and embody the gravitas to challenge and overcome, historical barriers to health equality. Challenges so complex that they encompass social and racial injustice, systemic and structural racism, and implicit biases with healthcare. This nurse should be both culturally and linguistically sensitive with the skill to contribute to a task force that is responsible for saving the health of our nation.
Alice Benjamin, APRN, MSN, ACNS-BC, FNP, also known as Nurse Alice, is a cardiac clinical nurse specialist and family nurse practitioner with over 23 years of healthcare experience. She is a community health activist and freelance media health expert who has appeared on NBC, Fox and CNN.”
A CNN op-ed by Lauren Ghazal and Caroline Dorsen echoed the sentiment. “Nurses have the expertise to sit on such an important task force,” they wrote. “Nurses' inimitable role in the health care workforce brings front-line perspectives and communication different than that of our physician and administrative colleagues– one that is concerned primarily with the human response to illness and disease, and seeks to give voice to patients, families, and communities.”
And at least two other petitions urging the President-Elect and his right-hand woman, Kamala Harris, to add a nurse’s voice to their team. For instance, a petition started by A. Weaver is inching close to 27,000 signatures and echoes Brown’s argument that including a nurse is “imperative” to the country.
While Brown isn’t naming any names for who she believes should be on the Biden-Harris COVID-19 task force, she says that ideally, the chosen one should be a nurse with a background in public health, someone who really understands nurses, and someone who has experience working in the Black and Latino communities, two of the hardest-hit groups by the virus.
“The really really important thing is that it’s someone who feels like they deserve that seat at that table,” she states. “We should have been there from the start, so it needs to be someone who will embrace that seat.”
As Brown points out, it’s almost a bitter irony that a task force focused on a pandemic that has largely been handled by frontline nurses wouldn’t even consider inviting one of those very nurses to the discussion table. Remember all those healthcare heroes we lauded in the spring? They haven’t gone anywhere–some of them are still struggling to find adequate PPE, overwhelming numbers are dealing with burnout and all of them are still clocking heroic measures each and every shift–and it’s time we hear from them.
Brown sums up her plea with a reminder that adding a nurse to the task force would allow nurses to continue doing what they do best: getting to the heart of the matter.
Because who is the person to break down that complicated post-op jargon that’s thrown at you when you’re tired and confused and in pain?
Who is the one to hold your hand when you’re heading into surgery and trying to act brave but you’re actually terrified?
Who is the one to ask if you’re comfortable and finds the last blanket in the warmer for you, which sounds like a small thing but it’s actually not at all?
Who is the one who held your legs up as you gave birth, your hair back when you got sick, or your phone up when you could only FaceTime your family in isolation?
We know that nurses are the face, the hands, the heart, and the ears of healthcare. So now, it’s time we listen to them.
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