Author: Janelle Boakye
Interview with anonymous Geriatric Nurse in New York
I recently interviewed a geriatric nurse to get her opinions on the field of medicine, COVID-19, and the socioeconomic disparities present in medicine. This is what she had to say!
How Has COVID-19 disproportionately affected certain racial/ethnic communities?
“I live in a racially diverse community and it’s a good thing that a lot of people here have been quarantining and wearing masks. However, I know as a nurse that there have been a lot of racial/ ethnic communities that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. There are some spots throughout the City who have been hit the hardest by COVID-19. It’s strange because the hardest hit communities are the communities I have seen wearing a mask, while it's predominantly White people who are still conducting gatherings and refusing to wear masks. I think it has affected us because we tend to live in poorer neighborhoods where we are all on top of each other, by living in apartments and close knit communities/ city-like environments, while predominantly white neighborhoods are usually suburban and spaced out. There are more than 20 hotspots throughout the city that have been hardest hit, and they have seen the most cases."
How has the politicalization of wearing masks affected the United States in comparison to other
“Firstly, wearing masks should be anything but political. It is simply to protect yourself and others around you. How can that be political? As a nurse who has been wearing masks for 24+ years at my job, there is really no argument not to wear one when you will be out in a public space. Making mask-wearing political is essentially why the U.S. is still seeing so many cases. People are seeing it as a limitation to “your right to breathe” when in all actuality, we’re trying to prevent you from having to use a ventilator, or contract a life-threatening disease. Other countries are back in school and back to normal life because people stayed home or wore masks, because they realized that it was not political. Unfortunately, the U.S. will not stop seeing cases until we begin to adopt this thinking."
What is an example of social/economic disparities within the field of medicine that you have seen within your practice?
"Well for one, black women still make 62 cents for every dollar a white man makes, for the exact same job. Additionally, treating the elderly has been an especially insightful experience. The elderly tend to believe that we are still in the Civil Rights Movement, and are still painfully racist. I come in and tell them I will be administering the medicine and they deny that it could be possible. They regard me as an aid or housekeeper. I try not to blame them, because they grew up in a different time period, but a lot of them are blatantly ignorant. Another staggering statistic is that black women only make up about 2% of all physicians. This is evident in my line of work too. We often have rotating doctors at the nursing and almost all of them have been White or Asian males. I’ve seen this throughout my entire career, and it’s sad because I would like to see more women who look like me dominate male driven fields."
What is your message for future medical leaders trying to highlight how medicine and society go
“I think the most important thing that future medical leaders need to understand is that society directly influences medicine. Where people are from, their experiences, what they believe. All of it influences medicine. It is just as important to be well-versed in medicine as it is to be well-versed in empathy. Being empathetic towards everyone is the first step towards becoming equal in medicine and society. And being tolerant and respectful is key, working in a hospital, nursing home, or other care facility means meeting so many different people, and it’s important that even if you don’t understand others, you should at the very least respect them."
Image source: https://unsplash.com/s/photos/nurse