Nurses: we’re on a mission. It’s time to stop giving in, and start giving a damn.

We exist in a time that not even Florence Nightingale herself could have predicted: one that has altered the healthcare platform in which we practice in every capacity. Not only has the clinical function of the modern day nurse become increasingly more complex and dynamic, we are tasked with to be better, faster, stronger, and more efficient with fewer and fewer resources. The nursing role has shifted from one of timely and compassionate care for those most desperately in need to a nearly-impossible balancing act: part practitioner; part administrator; part chaplain and housekeeper, server and cheerleader. While the nursing community has been oft-touted as one teeming with intelligence, integrity, and self-sacrifice, we will no longer be used and abused. We cannot afford to be bullied, belittled, and taken advantage of: mandated nurse:patient ratios will be the difference between a life-long commitment to the profession, and an exodus from the bedside for good.

Nurses: we are not here to kiss boo-boos. We are not angels or martyrs or saints. While what we do every day is heroic, we were not educated and trained to be superheroes: we are nurses! We were not created to sacrifice every piece of ourselves every single shift. We must stop glamorizing “giving our all for our patients” and see the circumstances for what they really are: various forms of abuse. The entire institution of our storied profession has been misled to believe that unsafe staffing and the repercussions that come with dangerously limited resources simply come as part of our obligation to our patients. We laugh at the idea of taking a proper lunch. We joke about stealing a few moments to pee. And we turn signs of burnout into banter, hoping to make light of the painfully difficult moral, ethical, and physical challenges we encounter every single day.

This is not part of our job description. Instead, it is an occupational hazard, and one that directly impacts the very patients for which we advocate. Unsafe working conditions and alarming staffing ratios don’t just affect nurses at the bedside: this is a nation wide issue with damaging repercussions. We have been thinned out, leaned down, and cut back for too long: until now!

We heed the call to bring national awareness about the 3.6 million of us in this country who care for total strangers shift after shift, day after day, yet are often forgotten ourselves. In a society that seeks comfort, compassion, and clinical expertise in hospitals and beyond, we are often quick to consider the health and wellness of the patient while ignoring the basic physical, mental, and emotional needs of the nurse. Our call to arms is simple: safe staffing saves lives. Safe staffing improves outcomes. Safe staffing protects the nurse!

One million names.

Nurses. Family members. Patients. Friends. One million signatures are what we need to show Congress that our demands are to be taken seriously, and that policy reform is the only way to edit the disturbing writing on the wall. One million names of those who understand that we must come together to keep from falling apart. One million names who hope to shift the paradigm for the next generation of nurses, encouraging them to be fearless advocates for themselves and those charged with their care and not silenced under the thumb of a system that is fractured.

A petition for national nurse patient ratios is more than a piece of paper: it’s a choice. You can either be resigned to the conditions under which you are forced to practice, or accept our mission to change them. Together, we can help heal what has broken. Apart, our profession will continue to crack. We are movers. We are shakers. We are agents of change and advocates of need and turn pebbles into mountaintops every single day. We don’t need another cup of coffee. We don’t want another free pen. We want safe patient ratios: if not you, whom? If not today, when?

One million names: because even one patient harmed is too many.

One million names: because one patient more is too much.

One million names: because behind every patient who suffers from unsafe conditions, stands an over-worked and under-staffed nurse.

Share it loud. Make Flo proud. Turn your problems into progress, and your ideas into policy.

Sonja M. Schwartzbach, BSN, RN, CCRN

Instagram: @nursesonja

Twitter: @nursesonja329