President Trump with Sophia Thomas

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Newell: Local nurse speaks truth to power at the White House

AANP President's comment about PPE supply makes waves

Newell Normand
May 08, 2020 - 3:37 pm


National Nurses Week started this last Wednesday, May 8, and Tuesday, May 12 is International Nurses Day. These programs are meant to honor health care providers during the coronavirus pandemic. Since the virus began, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) has been collecting front line accounts of NPs across America and on Friday morning Newell invited AANP President and local NP Sophia Thomas onto the program to talk about her organization’s work and her viral moment with President Trump.

“We had one of the nurses from Baton Rouge on the air earlier, talking about the heart-wrenching stories of families not being able to visit loved ones in the hospital,” Newell began. “Some ultimately succumb to the virus... you must be hearing similar stories and experience that yourself. Your thoughts?”

“We hear that across the country, and right here in Louisiana,” Thomas said. “Nurses are there with family members, supporting and comforting them through scary times. They’re also being a conduit between the patient and the family - many times nurses are using their own cellphones to set up Facetime for their patients so that they can talk to their loved ones. That’s what nurses do - we provide compassionate care to patients who so desperately need it, whether that’s in a hospital or an outpatient setting.”

“When you talk to your peers across the country, do you find that things are getting better?” Newell continued. “I know that with the PPE supply chains and everything else we were behind early on, but are you finding that that has improved?”

“Here in Louisiana, we’ve had tremendous improvement, and I applaud our Governor for everything he has done to make sure that we have everything that we need,” Thomas said. “In our own practice, it’s improved a lot. But I hear from colleagues around the country that they are having trouble accessing tests and PPE, so there are still a lot of issues. It’s not only healthcare workers that need masks, hand sanitizer, and protective gear but now the public is also looking for these items. The lack of Lysol wipes and the like is impacting everyone. We are seeing the impacts of the supply chains not being able to meet demand. We’re all following the revised CDC guidance, but that's changed from what it was before COVID-19 - now we’re having to be conservationists to be sure we’re prepared for increases in visits. Some of us get one mask a day, some get one mask a week.”

“You were asked that question the other day up at the White House, and you were very honest with your answer,” Newell said. “I didn’t realize it was you at first, but as I was watching, I said wait a minute, I know that person! You get asked these questions and you want to be honest in your response - but it didn’t seem like President Trump was too excited about your answer.”

“As the President of the AANP, I have the opportunity to share my personal experience. I had a message to share from our members, who I represent,” Thomas said. “I thought it was important for him to hear that some of our members are experiencing a lack of PPE. I think the President was caught off guard by my comments because that wasn’t the intent of that press conference. But I did have the opportunity before that meeting to sit in the Roosevelt Room with Dr. Birx, HHS Secretary Azar, and Vice President Pence, and they were so all of the discussions, we have had regarding PPE, telehealth, and everything that’s impacting healthcare in America right now… I really believe they’re committed to doing everything they can to improve the response to this pandemic.”

“Well, kudos to you for just being brave and just answering the question honestly,” Newell said. “It can be an intimidating environment, having been there many times myself - and to be put into the national theater like that and have him come back with that response, which I thought was silly.”

“I had a message to share… I’m sure he didn’t expect the comments but I thought it was important. It wasn't nerve-wracking at all. There’s been a lot of media attention since then - I just want to shift the attention from politics to patients.” 

Hear the entire interview in the audio player below.


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