Lillian Wald was a famous nurse activist and writer. She’s my role model. Lillian stood up for the little guy by providing health care to the poor, and she advocated for social justice during the Gilded Age. For those of you who may not know, the Gilded Age was a time of great wealth for a fortunate few in America. You might call these people the original 1%. Wall Street bankers and robber barons were buying politicians and running amok while building vast fortunes off the backs of the working poor. Sound familiar? It’s funny how history has a way of repeating itself.
I believe that Lillian Wald, the founder of public health nursing, would support the Wall Street Occupation if she were alive today. Lillian didn’t wring her hands when someone needed help. She got her hands dirty. I bet she would be encamped with the protesters, caring for the sick and blogging about Occupy Wall Street events. Nurses working the frontlines at the Occupy Wall Street protest rallies report that many people who come to the first aid tents, set up by National Nurses United, do not have basic health care coverage. Many are homeless and unemployed, and are in search of social justice. I know that a lot of people cringe when they hear that term. “Good God,” they gasp. “Social justice is code for Socialism.” Really? Lillian was all about social justice and I’m sure that she wouldn’t see anything wrong with people having a decent job, food, and a place to live. I’m also sure that Lillian would support the actions of NNU. The NNU has been protesting the financial industry’s role in the nation’s economic meltdown even before the advent of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Wall Street companies are buying up hospitals and gutting them for profit at the expense of patients, so the NNU is calling for a one-percent tax on Wall Street transactions that would fund new health care initiatives in addition to keeping other programs like Medicare off the chopping block. Lillian said that reform could be accomplished only when attitudes change. It’s time to change some attitudes, kick some butt, and put an end to this new gilded age.
Encamped nurses are bracing for what’s to come. They expect inclement weather, a flu outbreak among protesters, and the arrest of more nurses. Despite these hardships, nurses stand firm with protesters. Please visit the NNU webpage and see how you can help this historic movement.