Executive director, National Nurses United
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bonnie Castillo was among the first to sound an alarm about the need to be properly prepared for a surge in cases. But while Castillo has fought for nurses over her entire career — she’s a registered nurse herself — 2020 proved her greatest battle.
Amid dangerous conditions, members of National Nurses United demonstrated across the U.S. for access to safe protective equipment and for diminished patient workloads. The organization also held two large protests in front of the White House, during which advocates demanded better support for nurses and other frontline workers. It has also supported progressive causes such as Medicare for All and Black Lives Matter.
Castillo approaches her role with a populist mindset. Under her leadership, National Nurse United conducted several surveys to determine whether nurses felt their workplaces were prepared for an infectious disease outbreak and had proper procedures and equipment in place to treat COVID-19 patients.
Those surveys, conducted in late February, found a widespread lack of preparation in hospitals nationwide. Later surveys found nurses were being denied access to COVID-19 tests, even after exposure to the virus.
Castillo testified before Congress in June, demanding more protective equipment and advocating for better support for nurses on the frontlines of the pandemic. “Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus began, nurses have been risking their lives every day to provide patient care to those in need,” Castillo told a House committee. “Across the country, they have been denied the necessary protections to prevent exposure to COVID-19.”