Following Floyd’s death on May 25, hospitals began organizing ceremonies to take a knee, an action that just a few years ago created a national firestorm when quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem before NFL games. They’ve also participated in moments of silence.
Just a day before the vandalism at the University of Iowa campus, Dr. Nicole del Castillo helped lead a #WhiteCoatsforBlackLives protest at the hospital for Carver College of Medicine residents and staff. They knelt for nearly 10 minutes. According to del Castillo, the demonstration was both a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and a call to action for change within the hospital.
“We are currently … looking internally at our community, seeing ways that we can make improvement,” said del Castillo, adding that the hospital is surveying employees to identify issues of concern.
While medical professional lobbying groups have historically shied away from directly calling out systemic and institutional racism, several organizations released official statements encouraging members to be vocal.
“The Code of Ethics for Nurses obligates nurses to be allies and to advocate and speak up against racism, discrimination and injustice,” Ernest Grant, president of the American Nurses Association, wrote in an online commentary for Modern Healthcare. “This is nonnegotiable.”
And a statement from National Nurses United said: “There are inherent health risks in protesting amidst a pandemic, but we know that the risks of systemic racial and economic injustice outweigh the dangers for many.” The document advised best practices to protest safely. Many healthcare workers volunteered as medics to support protesters.
“I’ve been doing social justice work probably longer than I’ve been nursing,” said Asantewaa Boykin, a registered nurse at UC Davis Medical Center. “In my head they’re one and the same, so it only makes sense to organize in that way to provide people medical assistance if they need it.”