Nurses are often recognized as the backbone of hospitals. They spend more time with patients than doctors do, and they ultimately have the power to advocate for their patients to ensure they are given the highest level of care.
Friday kicked off National Nurses Week, a time to celebrate the critical role the frontline workers play in our healthcare system.
While the percentage of Black registered nurses has increased since 2017, they continue to lag behind their White counterparts with 6.2 percent of registered nurses identifying as Black or African American compared to over 80 percent identifying as White.
Considering the historic racism found in the medical system, Black patients experience hesitancy, reluctance and fear in seeking care. Increasing the number of Black nurses and other Black healthcare professionals can be essential to building trust with Black communities.
Charronne Jones, a native of Maryland, is the CEO and owner of Aamira Home Care in Annapolis, Maryland. After working in the healthcare industry for over 30 years, she said it can be hugely beneficial for patients to have nurses who look like them.
“When you have someone who looks like you, that person identifies with you and really cares about what happens to you,” said Jones. “They don’t have preconceived ideas of who you are, and they just want to take care of you.”
Jones comes from a family of nurses, and despite her efforts to steer clear of the profession, the sciences always came easy to her.
She started her nursing career in high school at what was then North Arundel Vocational Technical School, and after graduation, she became a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Following college at University of Maryland, Baltimore, Jones became a registered nurse (RN).
During her studies, Jones’ instructors focused heavily on total patient care, a nursing model where one nurse addresses all of a patients’ or group of patients’ needs during their shift.
This led her to develop an interest in home care, but she wanted her agency to offer more than just medical services.
“Aamira Home Care is more of a concierge agency where we not only provide the personal care and do private duty nursing, we also will help you with finding durable medical equipment and finding someone who could build a ramp onto your house and do other environmental adaptations.” said Jones. “For someone who wants to live at home independently, we do whatever we can to help support those needs, so if that’s their desire, we want to make that transition safe.”
The agency also helps connect patients struggling with depression and other mental illnesses find psychiatric care and offers resources for patients seeking pet care or grocery services.
When the pandemic hit, home care agencies faced significant workforce challenges, including staffing, personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 test shortages and barriers to accessing disaster relief.
Johnson said although she retained the majority of her staff during the pandemic, they were forced to enter patients’ homes without the proper PPE, and the federal reimbursements Aamira Home Care received were not enough to provide requisite wages, considering her staff were risking their lives.
Jones hopes that legislators will address the funding challenges for home care agencies soon.
“Eventually, even though my staff really, really cares, they still have to live,” said Johnson. “We’ve had a huge inflation in the last couple of years, they still have to live, and we’re not able to keep their rate of pay up with inflation.”