The Politics of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Donna M. Nickitas, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, CNE, FAAN


Nurs Econ. 2020;38(4):222-223. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Nurses cannot allow political divisiveness to affect how we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is the time for nurses to leverage their political awareness to protect themselves, their patients, and their communities to stay safe and alive.


The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global health crisis. Now more than ever, nurses must be at the table to shape health policies and recognize the politics of this pandemic. Politics (from Greek: politiká, "affairs of the cities") is the set of activities that are associated with decision-making in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of resources. In the United States, federal and state governments are not aligned on the control or procurement and delivery of resources such as tests, masks, ventilators, drugs, and treatments necessary to address the pandemic. This uncoordinated effort leaves many front-line healthcare workers unprotected and competing for limited supplies. The need for protected personal equipment and drugs exposes healthcare workers and other essential personnel to the politics of scarce resources.

The lack of essential medical supplies and equipment and no uniformed pandemic agreement of Centers for Disease Control or World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines has resulted in front-line worker deaths from the peril of diminished and ineffective distribution of resources. In fact, nursing is becoming one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

Nurses cannot allow political divisiveness to affect how we respond to the pandemic. Nurse leaders must model the way and encourage those around us to follow through a coordinated policy including social distancing, wearing masks, and hand washing to save lives. Nurses must use our collective voices and actions toward greater political influence. An astute place is leveraging the American Nurses Association Nursing's Social Policy Statement (Neuman, n.d.). It is this statement that draws upon the power and distinct ways of how nurses help and care for others. For centuries, nurses have formed special relationships with society. This social contract, between the nursing profession and society, authorizes nurses as professionals to meet the needs involved in the care and health of patients and society. It is why the pandemic has become political and awakened our political will into the politics of patient-centered care, and public and population health.