SCHENECTADY – More than 200 registered nurses from Ellis Hospital picketed on a sweltering July 7 to demand that management make a commitment to safe staffing.
The RNs are asking hospital officials to incorporate the hospital’s current RN-to-patient staffing guidelines into their next contract. Staffing guidelines detail how many RNs will be on duty on each unit for each shift. Studies have shown that hospitals with higher RN-to-patient ratios have better patient outcomes.
The 670 RNs, represented by the New York State Nurses Association, are negotiating a new contract with management. Their most recent contract originally was to have expired on Feb 28, 2010, but was extended to June 21. The hospital has refused to extend the contract since its June expiration. The next negotiation session is scheduled for July 21.
Including staffing guidelines in a contract would provide the nurses with a means of legal recourse should the hospital fail to meet the guidelines. Despite the positive impact on patient care, Ellis management doesn’t believe that nurses should have this right.
“Ellis already has written staffing guidelines,” said Janet Strominger, NYSNA labor representative. “The hospital should be held to its own assessment of what defines safe staffing. Why won’t Ellis show a commitment to be accountable to the community, as well as to its nursing staff, as a hospital of excellence?”
Enforceable staffing guidelines are an important factor in establishing a workplace environment that encourages RN recruitment and retention. But the RNs are also concerned about wages that keep pace with inflation, the ability to access their sick time, and affordable health insurance.
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 professional association and largest union for registered nurses. It supports nurses and nursing practice through education, research, legislative advocacy, and collective bargaining.