As a nurse who practiced end-of-life care, helping families and hospitals negotiate medical ethics, I am appalled by the lack of competence and courage in the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. Our piecemeal strategy lacks the humility to effectively adapt as the virus evolves. It fails miserably in empowering and protecting those on the frontline of this crisis to save lives.
The greatest sin in all of this is not the coronavirus itself; we had no hand in creating that. The greatest sin is that effective leadership months ago could have protected us all better. It appears that we are still in denial at the highest levels of leadership with science and the reality on the ground.
It is incomprehensible to me that our government still struggles with supply chain issues for protective masks, gowns and ventilators. Or that doctors are being asked to decide who gets a ventilator and a chance to breathe. Or that lives of front-liners are at risk due to this level of unpreparedness.
In a country with our wealth and resources, that’s unacceptable.
What will it take to make enough swabs for testing, provide masks, build ventilators or support governors who are trying to protect their state’s citizens? Of course we applaud the CARES Act, but money can be restored, human life cannot.
Many more people each day are left to mourn the deaths of their loved ones. I cry thinking about the collective trauma this country is experiencing and how it will worsen as this virus peaks. Sadly, it could have been significantly mitigated by competent, selfless leadership with the courage to put people over politics and learn from the successful practices of other countries. Leaders with the humility to admit mistakes, then adapt and make the right move.
Sadly, it appears that many have come to power absent the lessons we in the medical field understand so painfully well. The lessons of selflessness and service to our collective human family that are occurring every day in hospitals across this country. The ability to put the well-being of others above our own.
During this COVID-19 crisis, inserting a breathing tube will mean doctors are face to face with patients who are gasping for air. That takes a medical professional, committed to their oath of practice, who has completely removed their own well-being from the equation. Someone who is solely focused on the action required to save a life.
We deserve that same selflessness from our elected leaders.
Some may say there is a need to make America great again. But for me, America has always aspired to its core fundamental greatness. The question for our leadership today is: What will it take to make America safe again?
Science, selflessness and the humility to admit mistakes and adapt to save lives would be a good start.
– Najah Bazzy, RN, is a transcultural nurse and CEO of Zaman International. She was named a Top 10 CNN Hero in 2019 and in People Magazine’s “Women Changing the World” in 2020 issue.