National Women's Political Caucus of Washington

Neonatal Nurse Suzanne Woodard on Electing More Women to Office

When I first attended college and started my journey towards a nursing degree, we studied the 1918 Flu Epidemic as a historical “artifact”; as a public health disaster that would never occur in our modern medical age as we had advanced public health processes in place.

We were wrong.

As the virus hit our shores, a nursing associate confided in me, “for the first time in my life, I am afraid to go to work. Every day.” Working in these extreme patient care scenarios where nothing is predictable, when you’ve never had training for them and you are learning on the fly, is unnerving and contrary to every medical algorithm we’ve ever worked with. Medical staff go by the motto “be prepared.” Be trained, have equipment ready and know your next move if there are problems. COVID-19 does not provide that learning opportunity for our frontline people. Imagine being a transit worker, a produce manager or a meat packing employee and being thrust into a hazardous situation without even a minimum of choice in your surroundings or knowledge of the surrounding danger.

The loss of control that all of us have during this public health crisis has manifested itself in different ways as well. It has been much publicized that the nation's medical establishments are short of PPE; however, less publicized and just as important are other medical supplies: catheters, IV solutions, oxygen tubing and medications. The nation's pharmaceutical suppliers did not increase their production of anesthetics, narcotics or antibiotics in anticipation of such an upswing in use, so we were dealing with normal stock levels. One colleague told me, “we went through a two-week supply of IVs in one day.” And the same for narcotics, antibiotics and other necessary medications. This has improved with increased production levels, but still is worrisome.

We are learning that it really does matter who is elected into office when a crisis occurs. This crisis has disproportionately impacted women and lower-income people, who are more likely to have jobs in sectors hit hard by this virus. This latest blow comes on top of higher rates of economic insecurity among these two groups, and now as our state faces drastic shortfalls in revenue, we are going to face difficult decisions about how to fund services that people truly rely on. I may be biased, but I strongly believe we need to elect more women - working women, women who have been moms and had careers and supported their families in and outside of the home - people who will understand why we can’t leave these communities behind as we grapple with the consequences of this pandemic.

Amazingly, our community has rose to the occasion to fill that gap in PPE - masks, gloves, and shields - in our community. PPE for hospital staff - but also for our new frontline staff: grocery workers, transit workers, farming community. I myself have connected people who have sewn hundreds of masks with community leaders in Mount Vernon who were able to deliver those masks to our farm workers. But this shouldn’t be up to individuals, we need to elect state leaders who will put working people and their families first.

We will get through this together! Practice social distancing, share resources, and support your neighbors!


-Suzanne Woodard, Candidate for Washington State House 10th LD, D

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