Experts say nurses need to be included in Biden-Harris's COVID-19 task force

Kerry Justich
·5 min read
Public health officials call for inclusion of nurses
Public health officials are calling for the inclusion of nurses to the Biden-Harris COVID-19 task force. (Getty Images)

One day after President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris unveiled their newly appointed COVID-19 task force, health care professionals called on the administration’s transition team to reconsider their picks and add a nurse to the advisory board, arguing that it’s the only way to achieve an interdisciplinary approach to mitigating the pandemic.

“Public health nurses have to be at that table because public health nurses are the largest segment of the public health workforce,” Lisa Campbell, chairperson of the Council of Public Health Nursing Organizations, tells Yahoo Life. “And as such, [they] deliver the bulk of the services to communities to ensure that they’re healthy.”

Campbell, a registered professional nurse, a former public health department director and a professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing, says that she immediately noticed that nurses were missing from the lineup initially presented by the Biden-Harris team. According to Twitter, a number of other health care professionals did as well and called for the inclusion of a nurse before the advisory was officially announced on Monday.

While the task force currently includes 12 physicians and health experts that will bring a necessary science-based approach to handling the coronavirus, Campbell explains that a gap between the advisory and the communities that it will attempt to serve will still exist unless a public health nurse is present, as they are the “first line of prevention in communities.” New York-based public health nurse, Barbara Glickstein, further explains to Yahoo Life that nurses are critical in the defense against the coronavirus throughout the country.

“They’re the ones who are doing the community-based contact tracing, the community-based testing. They’re helping with the management of that across communities,” she says. “And when someone tests positive, they’re advising them on quarantining, they’re advising them on contact tracing and helping them reach out to those they may have been in contact with at their local market, in the school where their children are going or where they teach,” she explains. “So they’re very much a frontline, critical member of the health care team.”

Glickstein also points out that the public health nurses have worked in these communities prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which allows for a perspective that is otherwise missing. Most importantly, Campbell notes, they have an opportunity to represent and advocate for their communities, including those of Black and indigenous people that have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.

Video: President-elect Joe Biden announces coronavirus task force

“We have public health nurses all over the U.S. addressing structural racism, addressing those policies. They understand the disparities,” Campbell says.“They understand it and they are trusted and that’s why you got to have a nurse on this task force. That’s why nursing needs to be at the table because they are the No. 1 most trusted profession.”

Campbell explains that this trust is a result of caring for individuals and communities at their “most vulnerable.”

She says, “It’s in our code of ethics to care for those in front of us equally, regardless of their political persuasion or their socioeconomic class, or their race or ethnicity, gender orientation ... and you will come across very few nurses who will betray that trust.”

During the pandemic alone, one nurse on Twitter laid out what her job entailed from holding the hand of sick patients as they died to contracting the virus themselves due to lack of personal protective equipment.

While the conversation around the need for nurses on the task force continues, Campbell assures Yahoo Life and the community of nurses on Twitter that the Council of Public Health Nursing Organizations has already drafted a letter to the Biden-Harris team that will include a diverse list of qualified public health nurses for the job. She hopes that this work will only lend itself to the inclusion of nurses in other decision-making processes, including those about the COVID-19 vaccine, as nurses will be the ones administering it.

“Nurses in general have been off of these types of task forces and it’s time that that changes,” Campbell says. “We have to change that.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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