Unsafe working environments. Poor nurse to patient staffing ratios. Hospital overcrowding.
A looming nursing strike in four private hospitals across New York City looks like it’s going to take place based on the results of a recent vote held by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) in an attempt to address these core issues affecting patient care and nurse safety.
Workers Unite Film Festival tweeted their support for the NYSNA on March 13:
Nurses Speak Out and Prepare to Strike to Improve Safety and Patient Conditions
On March 7, 2019, the president of the NYSNA, Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez spoke at a press conference held at the Stewart Hotel in Manhattan, New York, according to Barry Williams for the New York Daily News, and said the following:
“Year after year, protest after protest, these hospital administrators ignore us. What choice do we have? Our principle demand? Safe staffing ratios, a safe workplace, community involvement in best addressing the needs of our patients.”
She also announced that 10,000 nurses are prepared to strike at the following hospitals in a matter of weeks:
- Mount Sinai
- Mount Sinai West
- St. Luke’s NY Presbyterian-Columbia
- Montefiore Medical Center
Out of more than 9,000 nurses who cast their vote regarding the strike, 97 percent were in favor and expressed the nurses’ widespread dissatisfaction with working conditions while serving some of the highest-grossing hospitals within the city. The vote for the strike authorization came just after dozens of demonstrations were held on February 13 to uphold safe staffing ratios, better patient conditions, and fair nursing contracts.
If the NYSNA NYC nursing strike goes through, approximately 10,000 nurses will withhold labor in stark protest to the “grueling working conditions affecting the majority of nurses in the city, most of whom are women, many of whom are immigrants and women of color,” according to Left News outlet.
One nurse who spoke out on the issue, Nicolette Mabeza, works at a children’s hospital. She and her fellow nurses have recently taken care of multiple intubated children, who are often not even located next to each other. She had this to say according to the Gotham Gazette:
“Not only does it make you feel that you’re being a terrible nurse. You also wonder, why should patients come here if nurses can’t give the adequate care that they deserve?”
Staffing Shortages and Hospital Overcrowding are the Central Issues
Staffing problems are at the core of this looming nursing strike. Currently, the registered nurses working at these hospital systems are forced to do so under incredibly unsafe staffing ratios. Among other issues, the nurses are fighting in order to achieve:
- Paid breaks
- Wage increases to match inflation
- Retiree healthcare benefits
- Safe staffing ratios
One medical-surgical nurse might be assigned anywhere from six to eight patients. These numbers double when a fellow nurse goes on break due to the failing “buddy system” currently in place meant to cover care and allow for breaks. Nurses are subject to:
- Being overworked
- Unable to take breaks
- High rates of on-the-job injury, assault, and harassment
Patients are also suffering under these unrealistic staffing ratios by being forced to wait longer for:
- Imaging and testing
- Pain relief