When my daughter graduated from nursing school, of course I was very proud. What I did not realize was the extent to which that pride would reach. My heart swells whenever, at funerals or other events, people come up to me and tell me how wonderful my girl was to their loved one during their time of illness.
“She was so patient, so caring.” “She took such good care of our mom – you should be very proud.”
These comments often bring tears to my eyes, because I never imagined my stoic, rough-and-tumble athlete doing this type of work. And I am here to tell you, even as an observer, it is demanding. She and her colleagues work twelve-hour shifts. They care for people with communicable, sometimes life-threatening diseases. Administer medicines on which a person’s life often depends. Clean up uncontrolled bodily excretions. Calm belligerent patients. Deal with angry relatives. Tears. Death.
Nurses do all of this and more. Often, they have your loved one’s life in their hands. More often than any of us realize, so I am told, they catch doctors’ errors, too. For all of this and more, they are paid a starting salary of $17.37 an hour. A little over $36,000 a year. That’s it.
Our senators, even the new ones, make $40.86 an hour, or $85,000 a year, thanks to a pay raise that members of the 33rd Guam Legislature gave themselves, the governor, and the mayors. If the most recent effort by some lawmakers to roll back their salaries to the pre-raise level of $55,000 had been successful, they would still make $26 an hour. That’s a pretty decent wage for a lot of talk, and for occasionally writing and passing bills. A few of these bills are well thought out and painstakingly researched, but more often than not, we get hastily drafted legislation that serves a handful of people and is eventually torn apart during a public hearing by those who would be affected by it. Some of our senators have college degrees; several have law degrees. But higher education is not a requirement for the job.
Nursing school, on the other hand — and here again I was just a supportive observer — is hard. In addition to tons of studying, the grading scale is not a normal one. For example, in the dosage course, if you get more than four questions wrong on the final exam, you fail. Not just the exam, but the entire course. My husband, an engineer, tells me that in college, the only people who studied harder than the engineering students were the nursing students. They have to know their stuff because lives depend on it.
So when I listen to our politicians debate over a second attempt to repeal raises that many consider were undeserved in the first place, after Gov. Eddie Calvo vetoed it because he was “confident of an override” (What does that even mean?), I get frustrated. Because the people who deserve to get paid more don’t. Yet on a daily basis, they’re on the front line, taking care of sick people, exposing themselves to HIV, TB, and other hazards. They literally make a difference in someone’s life every day that they go to work. None of our politicians can make that same claim.
To our senators and our governor – shame on you for the dramatics. I am sick and tired of hearing your back-and-forth drivel. If you really want to introduce worthwhile legislation, take your raises and give them to my nurse and her co-workers. They deserve the money a hell of a lot more than all of you do.