Union nurses join forces for patient safety

ALBANY Hundreds of nurses from five prominent nurses unions filled the plaza in front of the Capitol steps today calling for legislation that would ban mandatory overtime and ensure safe nurse staffing levels. Busloads of nurses from across the state including members of the New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF), the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), and the Nurse Alliance of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East wore brightly colored t-shirts, waved signs and blew whistles to make sure their voices were heard. Mandatory overtime is a major cause of the current nursing shortage nationwide. Every major nurses union in New York supports legislative bill S.6342 (Morahan)/A.1898 B (Gunther) to prohibit mandatory overtime. New Yorks health care system is in a crisis mode, said PEF President Ken Brynien. Mandatory overtime has done nothing but make nurses leave their calling. Almost 30 percent, or 69,000 of the 237,000 registered nurses licensed in New York are choosing not to practice in large part because of mandatory overtime. At least 14 other states have passed laws or adopted new regulations to protect the public by limiting the number of hours caregivers can work. Let this be a historic year in Albany with legislation, passed by both the Senate and Assembly and signed by the governor, to protect patients across the state. If youre a nurse, the prospect of working mandatory overtime puts you in a difficult position, said Barbara Crane, RN, president of the New York State Nurses Association Delegate Assembly. If you leave, you could be charged with patient abandonment and loss of your license, your career, and your livelihood. If you stay, youre working in fear of not being as sharp as you need to be and making a mistake that could cost some poor innocent soul their life. We already have laws and regulations to set the maximum hours for airline pilots, train engineers, and truck drivers. Why is there nothing for nurses? Norma Amsterdam, RN, MA, executive vice president of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, explained that, Mandatory overtime and unsafe staffing are nursing and patient care issues that affect all nurses and all patients in New York State. The nurses of 1199SEIU/United Healthcare Workers East have fought to win these protections for our patients and our profession. We choose to unite to overcome these barriers to quality patient care. Nothing is more important today, and we urge our lawmakers to act now. The remedy for the nursing shortage is to recruit and retain qualified Registered Nurses. This can be accomplished by improving our working conditions. We call on our legislators to protect our patients and the nurses that take care of them by stopping abusive mandatory overtime. Not only is it impossible for exhausted, short-staffed RNs to provide quality care for their patients, but they also have responsibilities to their families outside of work, states Terri Schelter, RN, the legislative political director of CWA 1168, Nurses United. CWA represents around 10,000 health care workers in NYS. The New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF)represents 58,000 professional public employees, including more than 8,500 registered nurses who work in the states 70 correctional facilities, three SUNY hospitals, 28 New York State Office of Mental Hygiene facilities, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and other state agencies. The New York State Nurses Association is the voice for nursing in the Empire State. With more than 36,000 members, it is the state's largest union and professional association for registered nurses. It supports nurses and nursing practice through education, research, legislative advocacy and collective bargaining. CWA represents 700,000 workers in information technology and communications, media and publishing, health care, public service and higher education, airlines and manufacturing. CWA represents more than 10,000 health care workers statewide. The mission of the Nurse Alliance of 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East, is to unite nurses across the Eastern United States for the purpose of improving working conditions for nurses and ensuring the delivery of quality care for our patients. We do this by joining together around our common causes, such as ending mandatory overtime for nurses and guaranteeing safe staffing for patients, with the full support of the 300,000 healthcare worker members in 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East. With over one million members in SEIU Healthcare alone, Service Employees International Union is the fastest-growing union in North America, with 1.9 million members in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

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