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Interview With Playwright Tom Stoppard; Interview With Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA); Interview with "Leopoldstadt" Playwright Tom Stoppard; Interview with Former ICU Nurse Rachel Ellsworth; Interview with Traveling Nurse Chelsea Walsh. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired October 25, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We have 90 percent of the bill agreed to and written. We just have some of the last decisions to be made.
AMANPOUR: But the devil is in the details. With President Biden's climate agenda on the line, will the United States finally prove it's serious about
saving the planet?
I will speak to the governor who literally wrote the book on clean energy, Jay Inslee from Washington state.
TOM STOPPARD, PLAYWRIGHT: My four grandparents all died in the Holocaust one place or another place.
AMANPOUR: Award-winning playwright Tom Stoppard draws on his own family's bleak past and speaks to our troubling president in "Leopoldstadt."
CHELSEA WALSH, TRAVELING NURSE: I hate to be the doomsday person here, but we're on the verge of collapse as a health care system today.
AMANPOUR: Hari Sreenivasan talks to some nurses about why so many of them are quitting in this pandemic and what it will take to heal the system.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.
That ominous sound you hear is the clock ticking, not just on the whole world's scramble to meet its climate goals, but specifically right here in
the United States, where Democrats are finalizing a trillion-dollar economic and climate package.
The most ambitious provision, though, is all but dead. President Biden is still hoping for some kind of a win days before he attends a major climate
conference in Scotland. Today, the host of that conference, the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, actually downplayed hopes for major action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It's going to be very, very tough, this summit, and I'm very worried, because it might go -- It might go
wrong. And we might not get the agreements that we need. And it's touch and go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And the consequences of inaction are everywhere. Today, the U.N. said that CO2 levels in the atmosphere stand at their highest level in
three million years.
And after suffering one of its driest years on record, parts of California were hit over the weekend with a so-called bomb cyclone that spawned
record-breaking downpour downpours. And scientists say climate change increases the frequency of such extreme weather events.
That same storm system has hammered Washington state. Its governor, Jay Inslee, has been at the forefront of the eco-movement and calls climate
change a clear and present danger. And he's joining me now from Bainbridge Island in Washington.
Governor, welcome back to the program.
Of course, we remember, in 2020, you running for president on a specific climate agenda, particularly a climate economy plan. So I wonder what
you're thinking right now, as your party is scrambling and arguing in Washington. There's been this Delaware summit, so to speak, between the
holdout, Senator Manchin and the president, Biden.
What do you expect to come out of it? How will it affect your state?
GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA): Well, we have an expectation of good things.
We certainly have a president who is committed to very aggressive climate goals. We think we have the opportunity to replace the clean electrical
standard with substantial investments. We have to make sure that happens.
And so, in the next hours to come, I'm hoping that the president will succeed in achieving major investments to really get our carbon footprint
down, and we need to do that.
But we have to realize too that the federal government is not the only player here. We intend, as states, to move forward. I'm co-chair of the
U.S. Climate Alliance. This is 25 states that are committed to these major clinical.
We're acting even if the federal government not move with the speed that we need. So, one way or another, we're coming out with bold, aggressive
climate action from America. And we want to make sure that the world understands that when we get to Glasgow.
AMANPOUR: So, Governor, I hear you sounding very upbeat.
But isn't it a fact that the Clean Electricity Performance Plan that you're talking about and that looks like it's dead in the water, that was the one
thing, that was the boldest, most innovative carrots-and-stick approach to really making a difference with a clear target, clear incentives and clear
But you're acting as if oh, well, if it falls by the wayside, there's another option. Is it really that clear and that effective, that second
option that we don't really know what it is.
INSLEE: Well, plan B is not as good as plan A. That's the way life works.
But now our task is to make sure that our investments are through other means, other tools, other strategies to get the equivalent carbon
reductions. And that means dollars committed as part of the reconciliation plan. And we are insisting on that right now. I was just talking to someone
who was walking in the White House about half-hour ago about this subject, to make sure that we make these commitments.
Look, there's a lot of things we got to do in life in the reconciliation plan. But this climate issue is a one-off. This is our last chance to do
it. It has to get done this year. And that's why we're so insistent on it.
But I do want to tell you, one of the reasons I am upbeat, to some degree, is that, no matter what happens in the reconciliation bill, we have 25
states that have banded together as part of the U.S. Climate Alliance. We represent 61 percent of the United States economy.
And we have adopted our own measures to cut our emissions by 50 percent by 2030. My state has an equivalent of the electrical standard already in
place. It's the best in the United States. It has the best environmental justice. And we all have the ability to move at all levels of government,
and we intend to do so.
So I'm glad that we still have momentum on this federally. And we're going to make sure we have it on a state basis as well.
AMANPOUR: So, Governor, again, you are a standout governor in terms of you ran specifically on this program. You have written a book about -- sorry --
you have written a book about the threats to the environment. And you're very innovative in Washington state.
You say you're part of this group. Obviously, you are. And yet you have had serious climate incidences in your state recently. We just talked about
what's happening in California. We know that the Colorado River is being declared in federal shortage, and it's apparently gone down by just -- by
50 feet this year alone.
And you call the huge drought and the fires in your state the tip of a melting iceberg. You don't have a huge amount of time to wait while
Congress just keeps deliberating. And one state, one governor -- rather, one senator is a holdout in West Virginia over fossil fuels, which are the
big evil to try to combat climate change.
How are people meant and what are people meant to make of this really?
INSLEE: Well, I think they should be frustrated, as we have been for some period of time, by the machinations of the Senate.
But, by the way, let me mention something to you. We have -- we need to vote based on the climate. We need to elect senators and House members and
governors who are committed to climate. And lest all of the anger is focused in West Virginia, the entire Republican Party is refusing to lift a
finger on this in this regard.
We have got to elect more Democrats, so it doesn't depend just on one Democratic senator to get this work done. The Republican Party has refused
to show leadership on this. And we as voters need to elect more people who will act on climate. We can't have it just on one pair of shoulders to make
sure this gets done.
But I also want to kind of reiterate a central tenet of my belief. We can't depend just on the federal government. Look, we can act. No matter what the
Senate does, it can't stop me as a governor from moving in my state or the 25 other governors who have committed to the U.S. Climate Alliance from
doing -- making these measures to cut our carbon emissions.
We have all got to put our shoulder to the wheel. And none of us should be frozen into passivity on this, no matter what's happening on the federal
level. And we got to increase our commitment and our aggressivity on this on a state and local level. That's the message I'm taking to Glasgow.
AMANPOUR: So let's talk a little bit about the hopeful message, because you're right. Doom and gloom all the time doesn't get anybody anywhere.
And if there are success stories, it's important for people to hear them. And we know that, as you said, governors and certainly mayors all over the
country are also responding to the very real threats.
So tell me what your state is doing and what kind of an example it might be for others in this Clean Electricity Performance Program, part of it. You
talked about you're dealing with the electrical grid in a way that Biden is trying to make a federal thing. What are you doing? What kind of impact is
INSLEE: Well, first off, we have the equivalent of what the president wanted nationally, which is a clean electrical standard that we have to
have 100 percent clean by 2045. It has to be carbon-neutral by 2030.
So we have a good, clean electrical scattered. We already have the cleanest electrical grid. We want to make it zero carbonate within the requisite
period of time.
But we also have the nation's best cap-and-invest system, which puts an absolute limit, absolute binding caps, legally binding, on the entire
Washington state economy, and then have a market-based system to allocate credits, with also the best environmental justice provisions in the United
States, so that we don't force overburden communities, BIPOC communities to swallow all of this pollution.
We also have a clean fuel standard in our state that I put into place after vetoing some unwise things the legislature did, which will drive down the
carbon emissions of fuel. And we will have in place shortly a requirement that we essentially have non-internal combustion engines after 2035, an
alliance with California. We presume that will go in place in the next several months.
So we have a suite, including the best building code standards in the United States, to bring more efficiency in our building codes. So we have a
whole suite. But here's the other good news, if I can share it with you.
The technological changes that are happening because of brilliant inventors and entrepreneurs of my state is stunning. In the last two months, I have
gone -- broken ground for an electric bus manufacturer, for one of the first fusion plants making an isotope of helium, to a group that's making a
stable silicon-based anode for electric batteries, which could increase capacity of batteries by 50 percent.
They're in conversations now -- that's Group 14 -- with all of the auto manufacturers. To a company that is now doing a fuel cell system are,
replacing some of the largest trucks that are used in mining some of the materials we need for our cell phones and the like.
The technological advances are so fast, it could outstrip maybe even our requirements. So there is cause for optimism, if we will buckle down and
send to the markets a signal that we want these clean energy resources. If we build it, they will come. If we require it, they will produce it.
And they're doing that. Ford just announced for the giant battery and electric car manufacturing. They're going to make the Ford F-150 all
electric. This is happening. And we ought to be both demanding and optimistic of our ability to have a clean energy economy.
I certainly am from Washington state.
AMANPOUR: So, broaden that out a bit. You're going to COP 26 in Glasgow. We have heard from -- at least the network has heard from members of the
British government, which is hosting it, that they are concerned that many of the big players have not yet presented their performance goals, the
things that they're, let's say, legally bound to be producing under the global agreements.
You heard the British prime minister actually say to a group of children today that he's not sure where COP is going to be a success, that it's
touch and go. He's obviously lowering the bar, lowering expectations. But what do you think when you hear that? President Xi is not coming. President
Putin is not coming.
This -- what do you think? What is your hope for what can realistically be achieved in Glasgow?
INSLEE: Well, I am hopeful that we will have meaningful progress at Glasgow. And I retain that hope. Do politicians lower the bar? Of course
they do. It's a strategy of everybody in public life.
But I'm hopeful that it comes out with meaningful progress in Glasgow, and that's what I'm hoping for. And the more meaningful or aggressive and
timely it is, the better. But I want to reiterate, no matter what happens in Glasgow, neither my state or 24 other states are going to be dissuaded
from continuing the progress that needs to happen.
And we have committed ourselves to that progress that is required to be met by our mutual international agreements to lower these requisite levels. And
we are not going to be slowed down or dissuaded or get our chin down about this. We don't have any other option but to soldier forward.
And I believe we will have such showing internationally across the world. So we call ourselves -- they call us subnationals in the international
jargon. They call counties and states and cities subnationals. We call ourselves the super nationals.
And the reason we're super national is, we can be more aggressive, we can be more timely, we can be more creative than the federal governments. It's
the nature that sometimes cities and states can move more quickly, both because of the political situation. I have a more favorable climate. I
don't have West Virginia in my state, so we can act.
So, these super nationals are going to act. We will have I think it's September -- or -- excuse me -- November 7, we will have our first meeting
in Glasgow of the super nationals. I will be addressing the main stage I think on the 11th.
And we believe there will be a positive message coming out of Glasgow from the super nationals. I'm looking forward to that.
AMANPOUR: Well, let's hope.
I want to ask you another major issue around the world and here in the United States, and that is the idea of immigration and refugees.
Your state has already taken in several 100 Afghan refugees, and you plan on another 1, 500 or so in coming months. It was the state that was so
welcoming and so -- with the Vietnamese refugees back in the 1970s. It was the first state to do so.
What would you say then about the rest of -- to the rest of this country, many of which are very, very hostile to refugees and immigrants? Plus, many
other parts of the world are right now.
INSLEE: Well, what I would say is, the reason for this is not just compassion, number one. It is also a recognition of our allies, who stood
shoulder to shoulder with our men and women in uniform in a noble mission for decades and stood with us.
And if you are of a bent to respect our military, I think it's appropriate to respect our allies as well, men and women who are interpreters, our
intelligence folks, who are now at risk by remaining in Afghanistan.
So I look at this as a continuation of that mission to be true to our allies, our individual allies and their families. But it is also this. And
I think those who have stood against this are simply wrong. It is a way to build your state.
Look, when Dan Evans, who is a Republican, and Ralph Munro went to California to bring refugees back, they brought back mechanical engineers,
physical therapists who built our state. My physical therapist was 5 when he came from Vietnam, and now has helped so many people.
These are some of the best and brightest who are willing to build their lives here. It's good for your state. It's good for your economy. It's good
for your communities. This has been a very -- the Vietnamese refugee movement in our state has been a very positive thing to help build our
Our state's proud of our acceptance and embrace of diversity, because it makes it more economically successful as well. So there's a lot of reasons
for do this -- for doing this. Compassion is just one of them.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, Dan Evans, who you refer to, is the Republican governor who did this groundbreaking...
AMANPOUR: Yes, program for Vietnamese refugees.
AMANPOUR: Governor Inslee, thank you so much.
We will all be watching very closely COP 26 and your role there, of course, as well.
Now, next: Imagine not learning about an important part of your heritage until you reach your late 50s. It sounds like a dramatic reveal straight
out of a Tom Stoppard play, but that actually did happen to the celebrated playwright himself, who also won an Oscar for his screenplay for
"Shakespeare in Love."
In 1993, Tom Stoppard was told that both of his parents were Jewish, and that all his grandparents and other relatives perished in the Nazi death
camps. Reckoning with his Jewish identity informs his latest play, "Leopoldstadt," which is about the devastating impact of World War II on a
family in Vienna.
I recently spoke to Stoppard in London about returning to the stage with his most personal work yet.
AMANPOUR: Tom Stoppard, welcome to the program.
STOPPARD: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: I guess it was it was March of 2020 "Leopoldstadt" opened.
Several weeks later, it had to close down, right at the height of its sort of attention by the crowd. How did that feel to you? And did you ever think
that it was going to reopen?
STOPPARD: Well, I would say that I felt lucky before I felt unlucky, because we had played for a few weeks. And there were other shows which
were just about to kick off when the whole thing came down.
And then it was somewhat frustrating. But nobody said at the time that we were going to be out of the theater for 16 months or so. We were thinking,
maybe in two or three months, we will be back and so on.
AMANPOUR: What was the inspiration of that? Why did you decide, at this part of your life, to tackle something that's more autobiographical than
anything you have done before?
STOPPARD: Because I began to understand that it was somewhat kind of inward-looking just to keep talking about my own charmed life, as though I
had no history, to quote the play in the end.
But that, in the end, I have to say is what -- why the play was written. And everything up front is just giving myself the history which I was never
really quite acknowledging.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's the point. And that is an incredibly important point, actually.
I just want to just take you back to 1993, which I think is when you discovered that, in fact, you had been born Jewish, to Jewish parents. A
cousin of yours had come to you when you were in production at the National Theatre.
And she revealed that the bulk of your Jewish family, your great grandparent, four of your grandparents and indeed another relative, had
been killed in the death camps.
First, I want to know, what was your reaction when you were told that?
STOPPARD: Well, first of all, it wasn't like a sudden door opening. It wasn't a before and after.
AMANPOUR: But you hadn't known it until she came and told you.
STOPPARD: My question to her was, how Jewish were we, more than, were we Jewish?
AMANPOUR: What did you mean?
STOPPARD: Well, I was perfectly well aware that we left Czechoslovakia, as it were, in flight from the Nazis. And my mother didn't really want to talk
about it much. But she shrugged the whole thing off. It in the way of a lot of saying -- back in 1938, if you had one Jewish grandparents, you were in
So she ended up with her husband dead in the war in Singapore. We ended up in England because my mother married a British army officer. And we looked,
all of us, my brother and my -- I and my mom especially, we just as we -- looked to the future.
Even now, it seems a bit strange to me that I was not exactly incurious, but I took what came. You're saying, how amazing and shocking was it in
1993, when a Czech cousin of mine turned up and gave me my family history? And the answer is a bit complicated, because it wasn't exactly a surprise.
AMANPOUR: You knew you were Jewish, but not how Jewish?
STOPPARD: Well, yes, I guess that about sums it up.
But I didn't -- I didn't feel Jewish because we'd never been brought up Jewish. And I wasn't really inward-looking enough for that.
AMANPOUR: And, indeed, it took certainly more than two decades for you to take that revelation, that knowledge, that family history, and put it down
as a play.
STOPPARD: Yes. Yes.
AMANPOUR: And it does reveal itself towards the end, if not the final scene...
AMANPOUR: ... in "Leopoldstadt," where one character basically says about the family who was killed, Auschwitz, Auschwitz, Dachau, Auschwitz.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Yes.
And it matches to an extent what your cousin traced for you.
STOPPARD: Yes, indeed.
I mean, my four grandparents all died in the Holocaust in one place or another place. Two of my mother's sisters. Her brother survived. And then
there was my father's side of the family.
I wasn't not at all concerned, to, as it were, use my own family history and put clues towards that. It's a story which has not ended. And it's
going on all over the world now.
AMANPOUR: Well, indeed. Indeed. And, as you say, it's going on all over the world. It's a story that hasn't ended, and that even here in England,
your beloved adopted country, there's a problem with anti-Semitism on the left.
AMANPOUR: And that hasn't been resolved. And some have said, this is that play, this is that story about anti-Semitism here, and to be aware of what
it can lead to.
AMANPOUR: Are you conscious of that in writing this play?
STOPPARD: Well, while I was writing it, I was of course, super aware that anti-Semitism as an issue was in the newspaper every day, you said of the
left, but actually of anywhere, left, right, center.
Theater is a storytelling art form. I don't think of myself as a polemicist, a polemical writer. So, I'm not, as it were, hauling my play
forward thinking about what it must speak to the people.
No, all I'm doing is, in my mind, telling a story, creating a story, trying to make a story keep moving, trying to make it human. And in the end,
theater is a very strange art form, because there's several hundreds of people in a large room looking at the stage. And you -- what you're doing
has to capture them.
It's just a question of storytelling.
AMANPOUR: So, in the beginning of "Leopoldstadt," which is essentially -- the main family is a Jewish man who converts to Catholicism. He's married
to a Catholic.
In any event, it's a Christmas scene. And they asks, one of them asked whether to put the Star of David on the top of the Christmas tree.
STOPPARD: A child that does that.
AMANPOUR: A child.
STOPPARD: And it's certainly -- it's a moment which members of the family find humorous for a few moments. That's all.
Of course, looking back over the story, it stands for quite a lot more than that. So, yes, you're right. It's about a family, which includes one or two
members who married out or converted out. And the play actually begins at the very beginning of the century in 1900.
And there were many aspects of life among the bourgeois Jewry, which was simply a normalization which was fairly relaxed.
AMANPOUR: Your mother clearly did not want to tell you about your heritage, didn't want to tell the boys. She clearly -- and it's thought
that maybe this horrible, this evil could come back. What if Hitler won?
AMANPOUR: And she wanted you to have a different life, and not to be burdened even by the knowledge of where you had come from.
STOPPARD: Yes. Yes.
AMANPOUR: Did you ever -- when you found out the truth, did you ever resent it? Did you ever rebuke her?
STOPPARD: No. I'm so laid back about almost everything. I want to correct my psyche, let alone my behavior. I didn't resent it for a moment.
I figured my mother has her rights. She's dead now. But she had her rights. She had earned the right. She had got us to sanctuary. We have been brought
up happy and healthy, well-fed and clothed. And she saved us. So she was entitled.
AMANPOUR: You were born Thomas Straussler. And you became Tom Stoppard after she married Ken Stoppard, the British army officer, as you mentioned,
And then you went on to be a journalist, right?
STOPPARD: I did.
I left school when I was 17. I just instinctively wanted to get out of being educated in that formal sense. The profession of journalism struck me
as being -- as I'm sure I was right -- you can confirm this yourself -- it's a very glamorous profession.
I was extremely happy. And I had no ambitions at first to do anything but climb up the journalism ladder.
AMANPOUR: What then shifted you into drama?
STOPPARD: Well, all reporters, it's as if they contain a few people who really want to write a novel even more, just to get a novel out, or, in my
case, because it was the late '50s, it was a play.
It was a time when British theater became hot, just to keep it short. It became hot. And that appealed to something in me, which was something to do
with vanity and ambition, rather than having, as it were, an aesthetic agenda.
So I actually didn't -- don't quite remember or know when my whole focus and my direction changed completely towards the theater. But I became very
-- I became very excited by theater itself.
AMANPOUR: Well, one of your famous plays was "Night and Day," which...
STOPPARD: About journalists.
AMANPOUR: About a journalist, about the glamour end of journalism.
STOPPARD: People are constantly telling would-be writers that they should write what you know and so on.
I never did write what I knew. The very, very first play I wrote was, as it were, distilled from other people's plays I'd liked. And then there was a
play about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
AMANPOUR: We will get to that.
STOPPARD: That certainly wasn't my scene, and moral philosophy, and what they had in common was a desire to make people laugh at least somewhere.
And the journalism play, I thought I would write about the journalist I never became, the journalist I would have liked to have become, the one who
covers the fallen war in dangerous circumstances. By the time I was of an age to do that, I was already leaving journalism without knowing it.
AMANPOUR: You mentioned Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, that was your big breakout play. What were you doing with that play? I mean, you took two
fairly, I mean, obscure characters from "Hamlet" and made this huge big deal about them that literally launched you onto the global consciousness
as a major English playwright. How did you start out with the concept of those two characters?
STOPPARD: So, anybody who's familiar with my play would realize that it had some kind of cousinage with a play, "Waiting for Godot," by Sam Beckett
in the kind of rhythms of it. But my own approach was really to do with the story of Hamlet. These are two courtiers, which most of your audience will
know in "Hamlet." And they end up dead. And as far as I could tell, nobody ever explains to them what's going on and why they end up dead. Which, I
think was -- you know, an idea to raise one's sympathies. It gave me a background for writing about them at all.
I was lucky or maybe I was cunning, I didn't know, unconsciously cunning because I had Shakespeare's plot to hold my play together.
AMANPOUR: So, I don't think I've ever heard anybody say Sam Beckett. You are on familiar terms with Samuel Becket. Are you Beckettian or are you
STOPPARD: I revered him. I revere his work. I barely met him. What can I say? He redefines theatre for people of my generation. He didn't refine --
I didn't mean to say that he showed what theatre must be but he did show what theatre could be and nobody had done that before. He reduced the
minima of theatrical vitality.
AMANPOUR: He was clearly a mentor. Obviously, you admired him, as you said, revered him.
STOPPARD: I know perfectly well that I've got an auspicious reputation as being some kind of intellectual playwright or a difficult playwright. I
didn't look upon myself in that way at all. I love writers with a popular touch. And at the moment, I'm sitting here with nothing to write and I'm
thinking, I really ought to try to write something else now, which is a bit of a Becher's Brook after -- I mean, "Leopoldstadt" status is a big thing
to get past.
AMANPOUR: Break some news for me, Tom Stoppard, are you going to write another play, because you indicated this may be your swan song?
STOPPARD: Well, at the time, I thought I didn't have to do anymore now. That's a nice solid piece of work to finish on. But now, what else am I
supposed to do? You know, I'm a playwright by more than as it were, labeling. I actually feel like somebody who writes plays while they're
still alive. So, I write plays. But what kind of a play and what it might be? The point I'm getting to is that it doesn't have to be a play about
climate change, it can be a play about bedroom fuss.
AMANPOUR: But you do believe in climate catastrophe, right?
STOPPARD: Yes, yes.
AMANPOUR: You know, you have said that for many of the reasons you listed, your mother made sure, that -- you said she saved you, she your lives and
that you always believed you had a charmed life. After all of this, do you still believe you had a charmed life?
STOPPARD: I'm afraid I do. I mean, I know bad things happen as to everybody. I lost my father when I was four years old. But many had greater
losses to bear. When I think of being on the newspaper, being in "Bristol," all of these were choices which, in a sense, made for me. I didn't choose
to live there. But it was a perfect city for me.
And then, the theatre becoming something else as I was growing into it. Let me just explain what I mean. When I was first starting to write, a London
season would have perhaps 24 straight plays and three or four musicals. And progressively, that's turned into 24 musicals and three or four straight
plays. So, it's kind of a rare beast, a straight play, in a way. But every time a new one shows up, I kind of -- my eyes brighten. My ferg (ph) starts
I'm told there's a new play about the making of "Jaws" the movie and it's called "The Shark is Broken." And just the title alone makes me want to go
AMANPOUR: Me too now. Tom Stoppard, thank you very much indeed.
STOPPARD: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Tom Stoppard, one of the handful of great, great living British playwrights.
And we turn now to the U.S. health care system which say, our next guest, is on the verge of collapse. Almost one in five health care workers have
quit their jobs during the pandemic according to a "Morning Consult" poll. Rachel Ellsworth is one such person abandoned her 12-year career because of
burnout. And Chelsea Walsh, a travel nurse, sees the channels that hospitals are facing country all across the country.
And here they are speaking to Hari Sreenivasan about the loss of so many nurses and what can be done about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Rachel Ellsworth, Chelsea Walsh, thanks both for joining us.
You know, we've had multiple conversations on this program with what is happening to nurses today and still important to keep covering. And,
Rachel, I want to start with you. When you think of what's necessary inside a hospital, people are going to say doctors and nurses, right, but give me
an understanding of why it is that we need the number of nurses in an ICU unit as we do or what is too much for one nurse to handle?
RACHEL ELLSWORTH, FORMER ICU NURSE: Thank you for that question. There just -- for your knowledge, there is an entire semester on studying this in
different health education situations because it is such a complex issue. But the gist of it is, different patients require a different level of
care. That's why we place them in different positions in the hospital. And most of that comes to how much nursing care they need and what kind of
skills those nurses have to possess.
In the ICU, which was the focus of most of my career, whenever you have a standard, which is two patients to one nurse ratio, the who is nurse
responsible for those two patients holds a vast amount of knowledge in her head. Everything from their lab values to what they have eaten, what
they're allowed to eat, their output, their skin, their family members, what doctors are coming when, this is all just information that lives on
their brain paper and inside their head for a 12-hour period.
When you add another human being to that patient point, just one more person, you're asking nurses to stretch that knowledge capability to a
point where mistakes are made, things get missed. It's in the patient's best interest for the nurse to have her knowledge base focused on the right
number of patients. There are studies that show that when you increase a nurse's patient load by just one patient, their mortality rate goes up.
The patients who are in the ICU, there are subtle changes in their condition that can be a red flag to something else that's coming, a bigger
problem. And a lot of times, ICU nurses are the ones to notice those, to inform physicians or alter nursing interventions and create a new plan of
action to head off a much bigger problem down the line.
SREENIVASAN: There's a survey recently I want to pull up and it was a statistic from "ShiftMed." This is was a staffing agency survey, I think
featured 60,000 nurses. Found that 49 percent of its nurses are somewhat likely to quit the field in the next two years. That seems a staggering
Chelsea, since we had you on last time, you have gone to even more locations. I think your current tally is somewhere around 16 different
hospitals that you worked at as a travel nurse, seven different states. So, what are hospital systems doing wrong in the first place at not seeing this
level of discontent?
CHELSEA WALSH, TRAVELING NURSE: So, we're running on survival mode right now across the country as health care workers. And there's only so long we
can run on in survival mode. There are two main things I'd like to bring up.
The first thing being the staff to patient ratio. So, to fix that, we either need to increase staff, which it seems impossible right now because
of the level of burnout and the amount of health care workers leaving, or we need to decrease the amount of patients being admitted into these
hospitals, which is something we're entirely capable of as a country but need to work with the health care corporations, with the insurance
companies or the government to create better preventative care more urgent and we can do that.
We need to decrease the amount of people walking into the hospital doors. And we can do that. Now is that time to make these changes. On top of that,
we also need a full financial disclosure from these hospitals as to where money is going, because they said that they will not pay nurses and doctors
more because they can't afford it. Yet, they still keep getting million- dollar bonuses for their CEOs every year. So, how exactly is the money being distributed if it's not distributed to the heart of the hospital,
which are doctors, nurses and patients? Where is that money going?
SREENIVASAN: And, Rachel, let's talk about the money part of this equation. Are any of your colleagues or have any of your colleagues decided
to step back from full-time nursing to do what Chelsea is doing, which is to go and work as a travel nurse?
ELLSWORTH: Absolutely. And I think that to speak on Chelsea's point, which I thoroughly agree with, one of the most enlightening experiences about
COVID is that we would be in these crisis staffing situations. So, they would bring in travel nurses. Now, that had happened on my unit before. But
what was happening is that it was an extended crisis situation. So, these travel nurses were having longer and longer contracts. So, then the staff
nurses and the travel nurses were now friends and we're going out to dinner after our shift and everybody's waiting for that one question. How much are
they paying you?
Because in certain situations, it's twice if not three times as much as the staff nurses. So, what it -- and these are oftentimes, these are not
necessarily travel nurses from across the country. These are nurses who sign travel contracts within their state and then travel within their area.
A lot of these nurses have a one-hour commute and were working at the same hospitals as the staff nurses.
So yes, financial disclosure is, I think, paramount to moving forward. Because for so long, they told us we can't afford it, and they obviously
can. And I want to also touch on the importance of ancillary staff. That's something that has a tendency to fall out of these conversations, we really
focus on the doctors and the nurses.
Respiratory therapists in COVID, their burnout rate is just as high as nurses and they are highly skilled, bedside professionals who no one seems
to be really talking about when they're full necessity in the ICU and other places in the hospital. Certified nursing assistants, unit secretaries and
dietitians, dietary staff members who deliver trays and help with feeding of patients, these are all tasks that when we minimize their importance,
those tasks fall on nurses, contributing to burnout, contributing to low morale. They are underpaid and underappreciated and are just as much part
of that supportive network that make the hospital run as anybody else. So, that's what I think is a focus missed in the pandemic as well.
SREENIVASAN: Chelsea, what do you do you say to those folks that says, wow. Wait. Chelsea is going to make two or three times what Rachel is
making by moving around the country, should she be making that much, should this system be the way it is?
WALSH: So, I have to say to that, I make up to 10 times what staff nurses make. If we're going to be real honest about it, my pay is different than a
staff nurse because my pay is dictated entirely by supply and demand. The less nurses there are in the country, the higher my pay goes up. And I keep
getting paid more and more because more and more staff are leaving. That's a problem. There needs to be some mediation in this figure out what's
happening and what's going on. We need to do it now. We're losing too many staff. I'm getting paid too much, people.
SREENIVASAN: I want to ask, what is the situation like by the time a Chelsea Walsh gets there, right, by the time a hospital is willing to pay
you five or 10 times what they would be paying their staff, nurses. Walk me into that scenario when you get in there.
WALSH: When we get there, we hit the floor running. We have to be resourceful and we have to be creative. There's times where we don't have
enough supplies, we don't have enough medicines. We are definitely walking into staff that is burnt out and is tired, and they're tired because
they've had too many patients and they've been running on survival mode for too long because it takes -- it usually takes us weeks to get in there.
So, they're struggling. And again, the less staff there is the harder it is for everyone to get through the day as a nurse or even the doctors. We're
forgetting about the doctors too. Nurses are burning out, yes, but guess what, the doctors are there all the time as well and they're burning out.
After the nurses keep walking out the hospital, how long do you think it's going to take before the doctors follows?
When we talk about patients as nurses, we are talking about the American people. We're talking about you. We're talking about you and your family.
You will suffer, your family is going to suffer if we're not there to help you. This is why people should start paying attention to what's going on
inside the hospital walls because we're trying to keep you all alive.
SREENIVASAN: Now, at the same time, you also have nursing schools graduating kind of bumper crops of people that are coming into the
profession. You have reports that more people are joining on to become nurses. So, what is actually happening here? Is there a shortage of people
who can do the job or who are willing to do the job the way it is today?
ELLSWORTH: So, that's a great question. And I'm going to start it off by saying there are people who are profiting from the misconception that
there's a shortage of nurses. There is not a shortage of nurses. There is a shortage of nurses who are willing to work at the bedside in the current
conditions. We didn't disappear. We left the field. And there are nurses that are being pumped down at the same rate as they have been since the
'90s during the real nursing shortage, the first time there was a nursing shortage, at the same rate.
The problem is retention. The problem is, we're putting out nurses using higher to fire practices in full knowledge that they're going to burn out
in two to five years. That's how long it takes to become a nurse. There is a sickness in the profession if the amount it takes to become a nurse is
how long your career is going to be on average.
The focus being on creating new nurses creates a culture where you are not going to have a concentration of experienced nurses on the floor to help
new grads, to train new grads and to lead new grads. The position of charge nurse being taken on by a nurse with less than five to 10 years of
experience is a new phenomenon. That position should be the most experienced nurse on the floor, and the reason is because that nurse is
pretty much, in a way, responsible for every patient on the unit.
And when things go bad, they are the ones you grab. They are the ones who, because they have spent 10, 20 years in these high stress situations, have
a really good skill set of checking their adrenaline, thinking clearly, and using their experience to apply interventions that literally save lives.
Those are practices that don't come from anything but experience. You have to train your brain to think in really intense situations.
It is a very dangerous situation to have entire ICUs where there's maybe one nurse with more than three to five years of experience. So, yes, we can
make more nurses, but unless we focus on retention, then the problem is not going to get any better.
SREENIVASAN: You know, at the beginning at the start of the pandemic, I mean, I remember we were opening our windows at 7:00 this New York and we
were banging our pots and pans and we were treating our first responders as heroes. And here we are not quite two years, but a year and a half plus
into this. And I wonder what you've experienced in how the rest of us have normalized living in a pandemic in the context of the frontline workers.
Chelsea, have you seen this culture shift?
WALSH: Well, going across the country, I definitely get to experience something very unique. And my last assignment, first time in my career that
I had a family member calling the ICUs saying that we were giving the patients something to make them sick, that we were killing patients. They
were yelling F the nurse, F the doctor. They were demanding that we get intubated patients out of the hospitals and back home, which is physically
But there has been a cultural shift that I have experienced in that the communities do not trust us anymore, and that is very hurtful because we
are literally putting our lives and our family's lives on the line to keep you and your communities safe. We're trying to help you. We want more than
anything to send people home to their families, and that has gotten so hard to do. But the reciprocation has gotten difficult to deal with and that's
why I don't see myself doing this job no matter how much you pay someone two years from now.
SREENIVASAN: Rachel, you were a nurse for, what, 12 years and you, through this pandemic, decided finally to leave. You have literally moved out to a
farm in Kentucky, right?
SREENIVASAN: I mean, the idea that you bought the farm. You really did it. And after stepping back from this. And I wonder, if you had a chance to
become either a full-time nurse again or maybe a travel nurse like Chelsea, would you do it?
ELLSWORTH: I would if we passed legislation to mandate patient ratios and support the mental health of health care workers. I would agree to go back
to work for two years in an ICU full-time if they passed mandated ratios, because I really believe that it is such a massive contribution to burnout
and I think that in order to profit from poor working conditions should be illegal because it is dangerous. It is dangerous for the health care system
at large, and it is dangerous for the patients that nurses are taking care of when they're in those situations.
If I may, if I may, think about the amount of money that comes in from a patient and then, you apply to that a ratio to a nurse. In COVID, the
hospitals didn't stop getting paid for patients. They still have medical bills. And the patient load doubles, sometimes triples. But the amount of
money they had to pay nurses didn't really go up very much. So, the incentive to hire new nurses when the profit margins were getting bigger
wasn't really there until they started having to pay travel nurses because supply and demand, like Chelsea said, drove the price up. This is fixable.
The money is there because the patients are there.
SREENIVASAN: So, Chelsea, now what? What is the -- what are the -- what's the top three things that you would tell hospital administrators or people
who have power over the health care system in any lever of it to do?
WALSH: Stop insulting us and start listening to us. As nurses, doctors and health care workers on the ground floor dealing with these patients on a
daily basis, it's about time that we had some proper communication. We need to make changes as well to the system. We need the cooperation of the
health care companies, the insurance companies and the government to start focusing on new technologies and new methods, possibly even to start a
triage system that start at home.
We have the technology out there to start new programs to prevent hospital admissions to save up bed space, to decrease that patient -- nurse to
patient ratio, to improve quality care and improve life. The main thing is, it's going to cost a lot of money though. And that's what's going to keep a
lot of people back. But we already -- I hate to be the doomsday person here, but we're on the verge of collapse as a health care system today.
They're going to lose a lot of money when we're not able to work anymore or they can start investing that money in new technologies for tomorrow.
Increase staffers pay. Because, guess what, if the hospitals would go to the level to a normalcy where we were treated appropriately and fairly and
we were paid fairly, I would stop travel nursing and I would become a staff nurse. So, a lot of changes needs to happen and they need to start
SREENIVASAN: Rachel Ellsworth, Chelsea Walsh, thank you both for joining us.
WALSH: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A huge challenge to be dealt with.
And finally, tonight, face shields, bubble wrap, takeout containers, the demand for single use plastic skyrocketed during the pandemic. It's a move
in the wrong direction, the U.N. says, the world produces about 300 million tons of plastic waste every year. Well, one recycling group in the
Philippines is trying to do something about that. The Plastic Flamingo or PLAF is taking the waste turning it into eco-lumber and building decks,
fences and even temporary homes. PLAF says its work is catching the eye of eight groups who want to help rebuild houses destroyed by typhoons. It may
just be a small dent in the big plastic problem but it is smart, sustainable and splinter-free.
Now, on tomorrow's program. A woman's plea to the Saudi government and the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to release her husband, brother
and sister who are all in jail. In her first even T.V. interview, Hissah Almuzaini, daughter of the former top Saudi intelligence official, Saad
Aljabri, tells me why she is scared for her life and why she believes that crown prince, known as MBS, is holding her family hostage to get back at
That's it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thanks for watching and good-bye from New York.