She said pediatric nurses are seeing the day-to-day reality of the impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable children, exacerbating existing inequalities across the board. Sending children home from school cuts families off from school resources, and the parents of children of color are more likely to be essential workers, she said.
“The list goes on and on and I’m very concerned about the long term,” Peck said. “How is this going to end? A lot of people talk about academic setbacks, but we can teach kids that we can cut, we know that we can teach kids that. What we cannot undo are the effects of trauma that are not dealt with with support.”
The pandemic also disrupted the nursing workforce’s pipeline, delaying graduations for thousands.
When Hurricane Ike destroyed the nursing school where she taught in Galveston in 2008, classes resumed in temporary buildings or outdoors, and every student graduated on time, Peck said. But with the pandemic, delayed graduations and early retirements have exacerbated a pre-existing nursing shortage.
“We’ve got a lot of people who have left who have just said, ‘Look, I’m not going to put myself and my family at risk like this. It’s just not worth it,'” she said. “And so they left the bed, and those holes are still there and that makes it very difficult.”
Peck said nurses were already fighting to make their voices heard before the pandemic, especially as hospitals across the country went from a collection of about 4,000 individual organizations to about 400 health care systems.