Tallahassee Democrat – Op Ed | May 12, 2023
Tony Braswell

Nurses are there when we need them to help us through our toughest days. As the national nursing shortage continues, and nurses often find themselves working in understaffed facilities, we need to show our appreciation and find ways to improve their working conditions.

May is National Nurses Month, a time each year when we honor our nurses and the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale. It’s the perfect moment to show how much we care about those who help care for us when we cannot care for ourselves.

As the founder of a health-technology company named after Nightingale, Gale Healthcare Solutions based in Tampa, I am demonstrating my appreciation by launching a tour to thank nurses. We are hitting the road for a series of events across Florida and the eastern U.S. where we set up the grill and provide lunch, along with gifts and other rewards to treat nurses –– and learn what else we can do to help make their lives a bit easier.

Easing the nursing shortage is critical to ensuring our loved ones get the care and attention they deserve. Nationally, more than 210,000 nursing home jobs were lost during the pandemic. About 85% of nursing homes are facing staffing shortages, and at the current pace, nursing homes would need four years to return to pre-pandemic workforce levels.

Meanwhile, the demand for nurses in Florida and elsewhere keeps growing. The Florida Hospital Association projects nearly 60,000 additional nurses will be needed by 2035, as our population ages. Meeting this challenge is essential.

To his credit, Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year awarded $79 million to high-performing nursing programs in Florida to train more nurses. Getting more nurses into the pipeline is a positive step, but we also need to take more immediate action.

Those steps can be both big and small.

At Gale, we are working to ease the nursing shortage by giving nurses the flexibility to choose when and where they work. Healthcare providers use the Gale app to share their open shifts, and nurses can pick the facilities and hours that are best for them. Our nurses are paid within minutes of finishing their shifts.

With more than 60,000 nurses working across 40 states, and more signing on every day, Gale is helping healthcare providers meet their staffing needs for their patients and provide much needed reinforcement for their own nursing staff. But there is still much more to be done to improve working conditions for nurses.

For example, Florida must ensure caregivers working in nursing homes get the work-related benefits they deserve. Today, some companies are treating temporary healthcare workers as “1099 independent contractors” so they can avoid employment-related costs. This means workers lose their right to overtime, workers compensation insurance, unemployment, and other benefits.

We must put a stop to worker misclassification in healthcare. Nurses providing bedside care are not independent contractors; they deserve W2 employment protections.

While we work through these big issues, we also can take smaller steps that do not take a lot of money or changes in state law to show our appreciation for nurses.

As National Nurses Week kicks off, let a nurse know how much you value all they do, lend a sympathetic ear, and thank them for their commitment to providing care when it’s most needed.

Tony Braswell is president and founder of Gale Healthcare Solutions, a health-tech services company based in Tampa.