I’m concerned for the future of America. I have a lot of reasons. But today I want to talk about shortages. Present and future.
COVID pushed our already fractured health care system to its limits. Doctors, nurses, and all other manner of health care workers were pushing themselves to their breaking points doing their goddamn best to keep us alive. They worked long hours and a great many were not able to go home for large portions of the pandemic not only due to the number of people they were trying to save, but also to ensure they didn’t possibly spread the virus to family and friends. What was their reward for this sacrifice? It wasn’t (generally speaking) adequate compensation for their above and beyond (as must be recognized by the number who have gone on strikes in the time since). It was often “rewarded” by hatred, threats, and violence, from those on the right that still, to this day, believe the epidemic was a fiction.
As a result, medical professionals have been dropping out. I’ve seen it in my own life recently as difficulty getting any kind of medical appointment without months of wait times. I have a colleague who has an already pushed out surgery pushed out even further. And can you blame these people? Who wants the stress? Who wants to be threatened by mentally unbalanced patients who now seem to believe that it’s acceptable to act out with angry words or worse?
Unfortunately, getting an education in America, especially for those in the medical field, can literally cost as much as a house (with much worse interest rates to boot). Who wants to go into a field where they’re not respected and have a debt of $200k or more? Not many.
We see the same thing in our education system. Teachers, especially public school teachers, are highly undervalued and underpaid. Increasingly, teachers are having to hold second jobs just to get by. And they’re frequently being threatened by right wing parents and politicians. It’s one reason my wife says America isn’t a first world country. It isn’t. First world countries don’t treat their teachers this way; they see value in the people who teach their children. So same question as before: who the hell would want to enter the education field under these circumstances?
So here’s my solution. It’s simple but it’ll never fly in a country where profit trumps everything else.
First, offer free education to anyone wanting to join these fields if they can demonstrate 1) that’s their desired profession and 2) the will, ability, and commitment to complete their education and go into the field.
Second, let’s start putting our dollars where our mouths are. Fund education fully. No more goddamn bakes sales while the football team gets everything they need. Teachers are our front line. Same thing goes for the medical folks. Give them the pay, benefits, and fucking rest they need to keep us healthy.
I know, some will say I’m a leftist, a communist, a snow flake. In my defense, I believe you build healthy societies on healthy foundations. Medicine and education are two of the most fundamental foundations to any healthy society. It’s time America recognized that quintessential fact.