I started this project in 2019, a year before the COVID-19 pandemic transformed American life. At that time, I was frustrated by the limitations of my practice as a mental health nurse practitioner. I wanted to show the inadequacies of our for-profit healthcare system, which puts providers in a position of promoting health amid structural violence, in particular racism but also classism and ageism. I wanted to explore my role - including my own complicity - in this environment.
Although I started this project before the pandemic, it took on new urgency when COVID-19 swept through nursing homes, including many of the facilities I work in. I saw dozens of patients and even a colleague die. As a mental health provider, my role was to help people cope with something that traumatized all of us. But the for-profit nature of these facilities made a tragic situation that much worse. Calls for excluding nursing home deaths from counting towards whether or not a county could reopen after the pandemic crested, further promoted the idea that nursing home residents’ lives didn’t count. These environments, created to maximize profit, were incompatible with preventing illness. When I heard nurses being called heroes, it felt as if people were just avoiding their feelings of shame for not caring about vulnerable populations before the pandemic.
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