NEW YORK NURSE: May 2009
by Nancy Webber
It was the biggest Lobby Day in NYSNA’s history on April 21, with 1,900 registered nurses and nursing students in attendance.
The huge Empire State Convention Center was electric with lobbying enthusiasm as attendees heard about NYSNA’s top priorities for the legislative session. And many who took part in visits to state legislators felt empowered to keep up the pressure.
Elisa Mancuso, a nursing professor at Suffolk County Community College, was surprised that her legislator, Assemblymember Marc Alessi, remembered her from last year.
“He said that he had changed his mind about the educational advancement bill because I told him about the importance of a bachelor’s degree in developing critical thinking skills,” Mancuso said. “He now supports the bill. It shows how relatively few nurses can influence matters that affect every RN in the state.”
The day included an address by State Health Commissioner Richard Daines, who praised nurses for their tradition of caring, “passed from one generation to another.”
He outlined some of the healthcare challenges facing the state, including Medicaid costs and the need for more emphasis on primary and preventive care.
“Medicaid pays one third of the healthcare dollars spent in New York State,” Daines said. “We must ensure that we are paying the right amount for the care provided in hospitals.”
Daines said that the state predicts the shortage of registered nurses in the state to increase to 24,000 within the next decade. “We don’t have enough nurses in the pipeline.”
The commissioner added that his department was looking at ways to increase the number of hospitals serving as clinical sites and other ways to increase the nursing workforce.
State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson was the special guest at a luncheon sponsored by the NYSNA Political Action Committee. The senator, who is a licensed practical nurse, made headlines in April when she was hospitalized with pneumonia during the vote on the state budget. Because the voting margin for Democrats in the Senate is so small, she was brought back and forth from the Capitol by ambulance in order to cast her vote.
“I was a good nurse, but was nursing good for me?” Hassell-Thompson said, remembering the long hours, overtime, and physical demands of the job.
“We need to ensure that we create an environment that allows you to grow in your profession under the safest possible working conditions,” she continued. “We must do this because people depend on us.”
One item on the nursing legislative agenda made progress on Lobby Day. The “disclosure” bill, which passed the State Assembly on April 1, was voted out of the Senate Health Committee. This is the first step to getting the measure passed by the Senate.
This legislation would require hospitals and nursing homes to disclose and report their staffing levels to both the state and the public. As nurse-to-patient ratios are a significant factor in patient deaths and complications, the public has a right to know which facilities provide the best staffing.