As the critical shortage of nurses in the United States continues to climb, hospitals are still firing Registered Nurses for refusing to get the COVID vaccines even in red states like Florida that passed legislation against jab-or-job ultimatums.
The lingering drive to force the COVID vaccine on health care workers continues even in spite of court rulings with sizable settlement debts against the hospitals.
Last month, as part of a settlement in a federal class action lawsuit, the Northshore University Health System was ordered to pay $10.3 million to 500 nurses and other health care workers the Chicago-based hospital operator denied religious exemptions from the COVID shot mandate.
Around the same time as the Northshore settlement payment was ordered by a federal court, The Silent Majority Foundation filed a similar suit in Washington on behalf of 400 nurses and health care workers against PeaceHealth, which owns multiple hospitals, for refusing to recognize the very religious exemptions it grants them from the company’s COVID shot mandate.
And it’s not just jab-or-job ultimatums American nurses are facing.
Nursing students like Brittany Woolery are being prevented from completing their degrees because colleges are partnering with hospitals that require nursing students to be COVID vaccinated without any exceptions including religious exemptions in order to complete their clinicals— the final step to becoming a registered nurse.
Woolery, who is just 10 credits shy of completing her Associates Degree at Keiser University, told The Epoch Times that the “crazy thing” about the unconditional requirement is she knows of at least one provider on her college program that is routinely granting religious exemptions directly to nurses.
Crazier still, she adds, under Keiser’s Bachelor of Nursing program, there are several providers who don’t require the COVID vaccine for student nurses.
Religious Exemption Denied
That leaves the 35-year-old mother of three, who gave up a stable job in the grocery industry to become a nurse, with a choice of having to give up nursing school or transition into the school’s bachelor’s program—which would delay her ability to become a nurse by 16 months.
Like many fired nurses reported to The Epoch Times, Woolery said her religious exemption from the COVID vaccine was roundly denied.
“It’s very depressing and it makes you want to throw in the towel,” said Woolery who currently works as a Patient Care Technician (PCT) for a hospital that doesn’t even require the COVID vaccine, “but I’m going to continue to fight in hopes some common sense will eventually arise.”
In a written statement on the issue, Keiser University Chancellor Arthur Keiser said that the college doesn’t mandate the COVID vaccine for their nursing students, but only “follows the policies and procedures put in place by the health care facility where [nursing students] are doing their rotations.
Woolery said it seems “the simple fix would then be” to partner with providers—that do permit religious exemptions or don’t mandate the vaccine.
Florida resident Priscilla Julian’s termination as a remotely-working nurse brings even more questions about the rationality behind the denial of religious exemptions from the COVID shot.
Julian, whose title was Remote Clinical Coordinator, was fired by BioMarin Pharmaceutical after the San Francisco-based company concluded her request for a religious exemption posed undue hardship on the company because she occasionally might need to travel for her job.
While BioMarin did not respond to inquiries from The Epoch Times, an email to Julian shows the only option the company offered her was “unpaid leave of absence until the pandemic subsided,” which a lawyer for BioMarin said in a follow-up letter met Title VII requirements.
Title VII, is a federal civil rights law that protects individual religious rights. Under it, employers must offer “accommodations” to meet those rights.
“Title VII and Florida courts are clear on this issue that an employer does not need to accommodate the religious practices of an employee exactly the way the employee requests,” wrote Angela Covey, executive director of BioMarin’s Corporate Counsel of Employment Law.
Jenna Vasquez, an attorney who is representing both Julian and Woolery, told The Epoch Times, that health care workers—especially nurses—are being left behind, in what she called the awakening to the lies the government spread about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine.
In talking about the recent landmark legislation that forced the military to revoke its COVID vaccine mandate for service members, Vasquez points out that it is clear both lawmakers and the courts agree that religious freedoms were never lost to vaccine mandates.
“And yet the very sector that was there the most through all the COVID frenzy when we needed them is being forgotten,” said Vasquez who is now working with the Liberty Counsel to focus the COVID shot mandate debate on America’s health care workers.
The debate also spotlights the alarm sounded by organizations such as the American Nurses Association (ANA), the industry’s biggest lobby group, about the shortage of nurses in America, in particular, critical care nurses—the ones typically treating critical COVID patients that arrive through the emergency centers of hospitals.
In October, the international clinical medical journal Critical Care published an in-depth study of the shortage and found that a pre-pandemic nursing shortage was severely exacerbated by a myriad of COVID anxieties experienced by health care workers.
“Insufficient nurse numbers impact not only patient safety and outcomes but also create a vicious cycle—fewer nurses lead to increased workload, so there is greater pressure on remaining staff, leading to increased stress and burnout, which in turn leads to increased numbers of nurses leaving the specialty,” the group of critical care administrators who authored the Critical Care article found.
Their prime answer to the crisis is “rehumanizing the ICU” for health care workers.
Many say that, however, might require putting politics and profits aside, and having the legislature take up the cause, since the U.S. Supreme Court has twice, so far, refused to hear the issue of health care workers being denied religious exemption from COVID-shot mandates.
Another client of Vasquez is proof that the problem is not resolving any time soon.
In spite of global reversal on COVID vaccine mandates, a 33-year-veteran nurse with the Mayo Clinic just lost her job in September after the world-renowned hospital denied her request for a religious exemption three separate times.