Socioeconomic and Healthcare Disparities Are Now More Apparent

The COVID-19 pandemic has shocked the US healthcare system, highlighting our flaws while showing our deep commitment to quality patient care. We in healthcare cannot “pause,” but I am hoping millions of people around the world will do so and realign their convictions from the lessons learned.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shocked the US healthcare system, highlighting our flaws while showing our deep commitment to quality patient care. We in healthcare cannot “pause,” but I am hoping millions of people around the world will do so and realign their convictions from the lessons learned.

The racial disparities in the US are undeniable, even with the limited data gathered by the government. A Washington Post analysis found that majority of black counties has 3 times the COVID-19 rate compared to counties that were predominantly composed of white citizens.1 This not only unacceptable, but a reflection of bigger problems such as racism, access to healthcare, and economic instability to that allows you to seek preventive healthcare.

My early glimpse of healthcare disparity was in 1978; I was a sophomore in college. I had a clinical rotation in the new dialysis unit — the hospital was so proud and excited about this addition. I quickly learned that there was not a machine for all who needed dialysis, and a waiting list was in place. I remember the waiting list, how patients were moved up the list and how matter-of-fact nurses were about these decisions. I discussed it with my instructor, and I don’t remember her answer but only my own moral distress.

During this outbreak, leaders claim there is enough testing for all people with symptoms, but how do an ill, lower-income patients make their way to centers? We tell people to practice physical distance from one another, but what happens when someone lives in a house with 3 generations of family, or has to take the bus or the subway to a low-paying “essential job?” They barely have money to cover costs in the “normal world,” and now you are instructed to buy masks, wipes (if you can find them) and use a delivery service for your grocery. During the “pause,” lets put our brilliant heads together and make healthcare fair for all.

Be safe, always.

Reference

  • Scott E. “4 reasons coronavirus is hitting black communities so hard.” Washington Post. April 10, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/10/4-reasons-coronavirus-is-hitting-black-communities-so-hard/ Accessed April 16, 2020.

Patricia Jakel, RN, co-editor in chief at Oncology Nursing News, is an advance practice nurse for the Solid Tumor Program at UCLA Healthcare. She oversees the care of 25-35 patients receiving chemotherapy, radiation therapy, symptom management, and end-of-life care. Jakel mentors new nurses to the art of oncology nursing. She is also involved in nursing research looking at moral distress and compassion fatigue. She is a frequent speaker on symptom management, new oncology treatments, resilience building and ethical issues in oncology. She has numerous publications on ethics and oncology nursing, compassion fatigue, and chemotherapy agents.