NEW YORK NURSE: September 2010
by Robin Wood
NYSNA and the RNs of Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) came together Aug. 25 for a moving and powerful vigil in support of registered nurse Kelly McLean, who was attacked while working at the hospital, allegedly by a psychiatric patient. ECMC RNs were joined at the midday vigil by colleagues and community allies to demand safe working conditions at the hospital and to raise awareness of the problem of violence against nurses.
Supporters at the vigil included RNs from other hospitals, state Senators Antoine Thompson (D-Buffalo) and William Stachowski (D-Lake View), Assemblymember Sam Hoyt (D-Buffalo), and representatives from the Western New York Area Labor Federation, CSEA, Communications Workers of America, and the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health.
NYSNA has been trying for years to get Erie County Medical Center to improve its safety and security procedures, asking for increased staffing, security guards, enclosed nursing stations, and other effective measures to improve workplace safety. After the vigil, hospital management assured the union it was ready to take new steps to improve safety for nurses and other staff.
The problem of nurses and healthcare workers being assaulted on the job is not, however, limited to any one hospital or any one location. In New York, NYSNA has successfully lobbied for a new law that makes it a felony to assault a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse while on duty. The law, signed by Gov. David Paterson Aug. 14, goes into effect in November.
“The new law is a significant victory for the Nurses Association and our members. It will encourage the prosecution of assaults that have too long been considered ‘just a part of the job,’ but the law doesn’t relieve hospitals of the obligation to provide a safe workplace,” said Lorraine Seidel, director of NYSNA’s Economic and General Welfare program.