NEW YORK NURSE: September 2010
by Roderic Roca, BPS, RN, President, NYSNA Delegate Assembly
Some nurses might think it’s a contradiction to be represented for collective bargaining and be a “professional.” But other members of professions, including airline pilots, actors, writers, and teachers have joined unions.
Why would a professional registered nurse want to be a member of a union? Very simply, to obtain a voice in decisions made about the quality of care given to their patients and to obtain economic security for themselves. A healthcare facility needs an experienced and stable workforce to compete in today’s market. Nurses who have a voice in decisions about their professional lives and those of their patients become part of that experienced and stable workforce.
Advancing the profession of nursing has been a key element in the mission of NYSNA’s collective bargaining program. As a labor union, NYSNA has sought to support and enhance the professional practice of registered nurses through pioneering legislation establishing the scope of practice for nursing, creating the title “registered nurse,” providing for registration of qualified nurses, and accrediting schools of nursing. More recently NYSNA championed legislation to protect the title of “nurse.”
Through the years, NYSNA has supported numerous bills that enhance the professional working life of the registered nurse. Whistleblower protection, the ban on mandatory overtime, and, most recently, increasing penalties for violence against nurses, have become law and have had direct impact on registered nurses and those we care for.
With more than 36,000 members in New York and New Jersey, NYSNA continues to win breakthrough collective bargaining agreements for RNs that ensure every nurse receives an equitable salary, benefits, and opportunities for advancement, as well as establish safe RN-to-patient staffing guidelines and protect nurses from unfair reprisals by strengthening their ability to function as true professionals. NYSNA supports funding for continuing education, tuition reimbursement, and financial rewards for advanced degrees, all of which encourage professional excellence.
As union members, we want our health care facilities to be competitive and financially secure. We have a great stake in their continuing success. Not only do our jobs and futures depend on it, but the safety and well being of our families, friends and communities, as well.
But we believe our workplaces are more efficient and more competitive when we participate in the important decisions that affect patient care. We also believe our jobs will be safer and more rewarding and our futures and the futures of our families will be more secure when we have a strong, independent voice in shaping the changes that will continue to occur in the healthcare market.
Our union, NYSNA, gives us the right to participate when important decisions are being made and the resources to be responsible and effective participants in this process. As nurses involved directly in patient care, we have valuable insights and opinions to contribute to these discussions.
We’re proud to be nurses. We’re proud to be professionals, and we are proud to be members of a union for registered nurses.
Note: NYSNA President Karen A. Ballard asked Roderic Roca, president of NYSNA’s Delegate Assembly, to write this month’s column in observance of Labor Day.