A nurse was one of three additional members appointed to Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board on November 29. This followed widespread calls and petitions for nurse representation on the expert task team created by the President-elect to advise on the country’s response to the pandemic.
“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 President-elect Biden.
Experienced nurse appointed
The nurse appointed to the team is Jane Hopkins, who has already contributed extensively in an advisory capacity serving, among others, on Washington State’s COVID task force, the Washington Workforce Board, and the Washington State Labor Council. She also has union experience and is currently the Executive Vice-President of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. Hopkins was born in Sierra Leone and trained in the UK before immigrating to the US in 2000. She specialized in mental health and has over 20 years of bedside nursing experience.
The original Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, announced on November 9, consisted of a team of 12 top scientists, researchers, and medical professionals. However, there was no representation by nurses – the largest group of healthcare professionals. Nurses have served on the frontlines since the beginning of the epidemic and are a crucial link to bring the voice of the patient and the community to the table.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be named to President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris’s COVID-19 Advisory Board,” says Hopkins in a statement. “I am committed to using my voice on this advisory board to speak for all essential workers. The American people deserve an urgent, robust and professional response to the growing public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Healthcare workers, retail and service workers, and essential workers of all kinds have been vital to our country during the pandemic, and their perspective must be included in our work to beat this virus. There is real work ahead of us, but there is also hope. We can and will defeat the coronavirus. The president-elect and vice president-elect are preparing to lead on Day One to address the crises facing American families, and I am ready to get to work to support them in this most important task.”
Calls for nurse representation on COVID task team
After the task team was announced, nurses immediately made their voices heard on Facebook, Twitter, and other media. Three petitions were also started, calling on Biden to appoint a nurse to the Advisory Board.
CNN published an opinion piece by two New York nurse practitioners Lauren Ghazal and Caroline Dorsen. They pointed out that nurses have the expertise to participate in such an important advisory board. They can bring frontline perspectives different from those of physicians and administrators to the table, closing the gap between policymakers and communities.
“For the 18th year in a row, we have been ranked highest in honesty and ethics in Gallup’s annual assessment of professions. And yet, while the public seems to respect our profession, we are often overlooked as experts who bring important ideas, skills, and knowledge to the table,” the nurses wrote.
Petition for nurse representation
“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,” pointed out Teresa Brown in an interview. Brown is a cancer survivor, oncology nurse, writer, and frequent contributor to the New York Times and started a petition on Change.org calling for nurse representation on the task team. This petition eventually had 46 000 signatures from both nurses and members of the public.
After the announcement on November 29 that a nurse had been appointed, the petition is now headed “Victory – Nurse ADDED to President-elect Biden’s COVID task force! We Won!”
Change through nurse advocacy
Brown encourages nurses not to give up – nursing is a great job, although it doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. “Nurses often say just keep your head down. That’s the way to get along. I would say no, not anymore. We have to keep our heads up. We have to raise our voices. We’ve got to advocate for our profession,” she advises the next generation.