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Note from the editor

Strikes among healthcare workers aren't new. They're often over nurse-to-patient ratios and pay, then later settled with new contracts while temporary travel nurses fill the absent positions.

But the COVID-19 pandemic brought new issues to the table. Personal protective equipment supply chain problems in early 2020 led the federal agencies in charge of regulating their use to overhaul the rules, such as when to use N95 respirator masks, which have long been the industry standard when dealing with novel infectious diseases.

Healthcare workers could bring homemade PPE into work. Further guidance for rationing allowed hospitals to use new methods to reuse PPE, including N95s and face shields.

The country's largest nurses union, National Nurses United, has been particularly frustrated with those new rules — calling them unsafe and ineffective as its members die from COVID-19 on the frontlines.

The first six months of the pandemic brought a number of protests and strikes from nurses and other healthcare workers across the country, punctuating both new and old labor issues. Hazard pay, nurse floating procedures and other concerns brought into recent focus are likely to continue to arise as contracts expire and negotiations begin.

Hospital employers however are facing some of their worst fiscal years yet, furloughing or laying off staff in low volume departments as their revenues continue to plummet. Those restarting lucrative elective surgeries must adapt with varying degrees of COVID-19 infection in their communities, and patients reluctant to return to medical settings.

The coming months will be tumultuous as everyone attempts to adapt to the "new normal" for the industry and beyond.

Hailey Mensik

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