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Local nurse-turned-influencer provides a voice

Mark Parker

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Labor and delivery nurse Jessica Sites will soon hit the one million follower milestone as a social media influencer and nursing advocate. Photos provided.

After spending over two decades as a local registered labor and delivery nurse, Jessica Sites is now using her platform as a social media influencer to serve as a healthcare advocate.

A report by the Florida Hospital Association projects that the state will face a shortage of over 59,000 nurses by 2035. Usha Menon, dean of the University of South Florida College of Nursing, called the situation a “crisis” that was “completely exacerbated” by the pandemic.

While local leaders are working to increase student enrollment and retain graduates in local hospitals, Sites has turned to social media to foster change. Unlike her former colleagues, she can speak publicly about the need for better pay, additional staffing and safer working conditions without fears of administrative reprisals.

“Anytime you state the truth, there’s always that fear that you’re going to violate a social media policy at work,” Sites said. “Unfortunately, there’s not tons of nurses that are willing to speak out about it. That’s part of the problem.”

Sites now has around one million online followers. Over half are through Facebook, and her website states that those posts reached nearly 26 million users from April to May.

The Pinellas County-based registered nurse began focusing on her social media work full-time about a year ago. She also hosts the Nurses Uncorked podcast, serves as a public speaker and contributes to national outlets.

Sites, who spent much of her career working in the Bayfront Health System, maintains her nursing license. Her husband is also an obstetrics physician who contracts with an area hospital.

However, Sites said she experienced complete burnout after spending over 20 years working 12-hour shifts in an industry in disarray. She injects comedy into serious topics and said she would continue down the social media path “until things change.”

“I think that because my comedy is so honest, it truly depicts what people are going through,” Sites added. “Instead of sugarcoating stuff, which some people feel like they have to do, I’m more blunt and more honest as to what healthcare workers are going through.

“If I can make them laugh for just a minute after being stressed out all day, then I feel like I have done my job.”

Jessica Sites worked in local hospitals for over 20 years before focusing on her social media endeavors full-time in 2022.

Like Menon, Sites said Covid added a “huge strain” to an industry already in peril. She said healthcare facilities began cutting costs as profits became more important than staff and patients.

While she called electronic charting a beneficial system, Sites believes new technological processes increase workloads for an already depleted workforce. That leads to a lack of breaks, and she said many nurses feel like they are not adequately taking care of patients.

Sites also laments the term “nursing shortage.” She said the professionals still exist but refuse to work under current conditions.

Sites said California is the only state to mandate staffing, breaks and various industry standards. She explained that many nurses are now forgoing bedside care for other positions, retiring early or returning to school.

“The expectations that they (administrators) have are just ridiculous,” Sites said. “And nursing is not a place where you want to make a mistake. It’s not like mixing up a paint color or something – we’re talking about medications and people’s lives.”

She takes pride in providing “a little bit” of a voice to the daily challenges nurses face. Sites also believes her content resonates with healthcare workers due to its relatability.

Her platform continues growing, and Sites enjoys making people laugh after they clock out from another long shift. However, she also misses her patients and delivering babies.

“If I really sit here and think about it, it makes me sad,” Sites said. “But I will not go back to it under these circumstances. Not until they’re staffing the units appropriately, not until they’re treating people with decency and not until they’re increasing people’s wages the way they should. That may be never, I don’t know.”

 

 

 

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    Anita Bonales Cogan

    August 2, 2023at5:05 pm

    RN from Ft Lauderdale checking in. We all need a little humor in this line of work. I retired early bc I felt the lack of staffing in PACU was dangerous. When I brought to the administrators attention, I was told to “ not make waves”. Thus I retired my damn self earlier than I actually wanted to. People would leave and not be replaced. What used to be a serious yet fun job turned into no fun at all. I totally get your humor and LOVE it. Keep doing what you’re doing!!! Thanks for the laughs!!!

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