This Nurse Just Called Out Everything That's Wrong With American Healthcare, And I'm Begging You To Listen

Lex Hinkley is a 27-year-old nurse based in San Diego — and their frustration with American healthcare recently made waves when they posted a passionate TikTok rant that perfectly sums up everything that's wrong with our system.

She starts the video by saying, "It is virtually impossible to be a ethical healthcare worker in this extremely unethical healthcare system. The amount of times I've had to discharge patients back to situations where I knew they weren't going to be able to take care of themselves but I had no other options, is truly too hard to even give a number to. If my career as a healthcare worker has done anything to my worldview or life, it has simply radicalized me further than anyone could believe."

Close-up on a nurse placing a pulse oximeter on a patient at the hospital
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Then they share a really upsetting story that perfectly illustrates how for-profit healthcare puts money over patients' lives and dignity: "I've seen varying levels of this happen at every single hospital I've worked at. I've been a nurse for four years. I've worked in seven states. It is happening everywhere, and if you think your hospital is different, you're fucking wrong. Recently, as of December, hospitals in Louisville, Kentucky, came under fire for leaving patients outside on fucking sidewalks."

A hospital building
Roberto Machado Noa / Getty Images

She continues, "They do this in front of shelters. They will drop patients off in front of shelters just like this, but sometimes they don't even take them to the shelter. They literally leave them right outside the hospital. This specific patient was left in this condition in 36-degree weather." When the local news outlet WAVE was alerted, it staked out the hospital and observed several more patients being left outside with no resources.

Emergency room sign outside a hospital

One patient's mother told WAVE, "I thought, They’ve dumped my son... My garbage I have to put out to the curb, that’s how they dumped my son. Like garbage." It's utterly heartbreaking.

Douglas Sacha / Getty Images

When a stabilized ER patient who needs more care is essentially kicked to the curb like this, it's called patient dumping. This practice is not isolated to the Kentucky hospital Lex mentioned. In just a quick Google News search, I found news reports about patient dumping in San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Colorado Springs, Colorado, all within the last year.

Patients who are uninsured, low income, or experiencing homelessness are at the highest risk of being dumped.

Next, Lex connects the dots between incidents of patient dumping and the gutting of the American social safety net: "When you defund social programs, it all ends up in the ER. When you defund senior care, when you defund psychiatric care, when you defund shelters, whether it's homeless shelters, women's shelters, when you defund the safety nets that our society needs to prevent people from beginning a crisis downward spiral, they end up in the ER."

Healthcare worker transporting a patient
Phil Fisk / Getty Images/Image Source

They add, "And simply put, ER workers and hospital workers are already at their fucking wits' end. We cannot act as a catchall for every single issue in society, and yet, we are, here we are doing it. And at the very fucking same time, treating people like literal fucking garbage should never fucking happen."

Nurse walking into the emergency room
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Finally, Lex urges our country to start putting money back into social services: "The only way to fix situations as unethical and disgusting as this from happening is to fund solutions. We need to fund proper safety nets for our society. In this country, if you lose your job, you lose your health insurance, you potentially lose all of your income, which means you're not going to be able to pay rent. Well, then, what happens if you get sick? Do you see what I'm saying? We don't have safety nets for our poor in this country. We have a greased chute, and at the very bottom of that greased chute of poverty is a trip to your local emergency room because everything ends up in the ER, and then we have nowhere to place people."

Patient hooked up to an EKG
Caiaimage / Getty Images/iStockphoto

She continues, "There are solutions for these problems, but they cost money. They cost money. And we as a society, have said that we're A-OK with 400 people having 70% of the nation's wealth while our community members get treated like this."

And that's just a sample of what Lex had to say. You can watch the full video here:

@travelingnurse / Via

In the comments, so many others who work in healthcare chimed in to agree. One person wrote, "This is why so many of us healthcare workers are leaving the field. We just can't take it anymore."

Screenshot of the comment

Former hospital workers also joined in the conversation. One wrote, "Amen. I'm an RN in Texas and had to leave the hospital setting because of this. Even in a 'nonprofit' hospital system. I can't do it anymore!"

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Another added, "I don't think some of the nurses where I work understand that who they're voting for is directly impacting their work like this - rn from the south."

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And others joined the convo to point out how teachers also often find themselves caught in this same bind. One person commented, "I hear similar from teachers. They are the catch all for children, providing food, supplies, clothing, emotional support to kids that go without."

Screenshot of the comment

Lex told BuzzFeed that people who don't work in healthcare often don't see the difficult situations our system puts people into: "They fail to realize the strain that not providing proper resources for our communities puts on our healthcare system. Emergency rooms are meant for just that — emergencies. I have seen lifesaving care be delayed more times than I can count because we were dealing with patients who were not there for true emergency care. But we are the only option they have. And that isn't fair for anyone."

They also hope that anyone who was moved by their powerful words will take action to advocate for themselves by protecting the poorest people in their communities. "None of us know what life is going to throw at us, and any of us could be one happenstance away from being in their shoes. Our society gives so much money to the elite class. If we restructured our priorities, no one would need to sleep on the sidewalk," they said.

Follow Lex on TikTok and Instagram.