'Spend a day in my shoes': Thousands of nurses march in DC, calling for change
Hundreds of registered nurses and supporters are marching down Pennsylvania Ave. NW, D.C. Thursday morning, May 12, 2022. (7News)

Thousands of registered nurses demonstrated on Thursday in D.C., saying change is needed to help both the profession and their patients.

"We're already short-staffed, we're already working long hours, and COVID was really taxing on us. We're just trying to fight for safe ratios and staffing," said Fawn Mercer, who made the trip here from Maine.

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The 'National Nurses March' organization assembled first outside the White House, and then marched down Pennsylvania Ave. towards the U.S. Capitol.

Nurse-to-patient ratios is a concern 7News heard from many in the crowd.

"The ratio of patients to staff is ridiculous," said Tracy Jackson, who is from Indiana and says she's worked as a nurse for the last 20 years.

"It causes burnout for the nurses and the safety of our patients is a huge concern," she said. "They can't get the care they deserve if we have 10 patients and there's one nurse. You can't divide yourself among 10 people safely."

From the Capitol, the group marched to Audi Field on Potomac Ave. SW 11 a.m., where a rally was held inside the stadium.

"We are the backbone of the healthcare system," said one of the speakers at the rally. "If there were no nurses, there would not be a healthcare system at all!"

The nurses are joining thousands of nurses across the county to advocate for change in their workplaces amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I'm tired of seeing unsafe conditions for our patients and nurses," another speaker at the rally said. "I'm tired of seeing our nurses undervalued for their work."

Beyond staff-to-patient ratios, several of the nurses 7News spoke with said they are overworked, underpaid, and oftentimes feel unsafe in the workplace.

"I got punched in the face two weeks ago. Workplace violence, by a patient, a known violent patient," one nurse said.

Her message to lawmakers in Washington?

"Come spend a day in my shoes," she said. "See what it's like. Maybe change will start."


According to the National Nurses March organization, the group is advocating for the following:

  • Fair realistic wages; including no caps
  • Safe staffing (nurse to patient) ratios
  • No violence against healthcare workers
  • Change the culture of the biases and discrimination in the nursing profession

Kira Harris says she's been nursing for two years. She tells 7News she attended the rally to join others in calling for higher pay, more staff, and an end to violence against health care workers.

"They need to retain nurses. They need to pay us properly. They need to protect us in the hospital. Every day we go to work we are putting our lives in danger."

"I'm out here because I want to make a change," she explained.

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"What better way to honor nurses during National Nurses Week, than to support nurses' needs for safer workplaces, fair wages, and eliminating discrimination and criminalization in the nursing profession?" said Ashley Hughes, RN, co-organizer of the National Nurses March.

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Other nurses' groups have also planned protests in the District. They include:

  • The Nurses' March
  • The National Nurses March
  • Nurses Take DC
  • Nurse unions
  • Show me your Stethoscope
  • Nurses Take DC
  • The Pink Berets
  • Healthcare workers, and more

Those organizations and their demonstrations are intended to show support for the following bills and legislation:

  • H.R. 3165/S.1567: Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2021
  • H.R. 1195: Workplace Violence Prevention for Healthcare and Social Service Workers Act

"We want to keep the patients safe and we want to keep ourselves safe," said Jill Cheree Odell, a nurse who traveled to D.C. from Georgia. "This would make it so there are laws and not just guidelines."

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