For over a year, health-care professionals have warned of the consequences of our nation’s broken healthcare system. Most recently, NYSNA members Steven Bailey, RN; and Aja Sciortino, RN penned opinion essays for Buffalo News and the Lower Hudson Journal respectively on the issue. The situation is so dire that nurses and healthcare workers are forced to choose between poor working conditions and their own health and safety, not to mention a lack of recognition for their valient efforts.
These members and others have shared personal accounts and documented the experience of our colleagues. Now the legislature must act. They should prioritize both recruitment and retention to build a stable, experienced healthcare workforce.
A Moral Document
It’s been said that budgets reflect the values of an organization or entity. Bishop William J. Barber II of Repairers of the Breach has gone as far as to say that “budgets are a moral document.” If that is the case, New York state’s budget process is a sacred opportunity to right wrongs where nurses are concerned. NYSNA understands this important moment before us, and we are leaning in to ensure healthcare professionals have what they need now and in the future.
Through the budget process, we are urging the administration to take concrete steps to protect nurses and patients alike. One way they can do that is by addressing issues that adversely impact recruitment and retention. And certainly one of the most important things the administration can do to improve working conditions for nurses (and strengthen the nursing profession in the process) is to ensure the proposed retention bonus currently in executive budget proposal applies to all nurses. It presently has a series of carveouts that will make it ineffective and counterproductive.
All Nurses Deserve Bonuses
For instance, the Executive Budget proposes to pay a $3,000 retention bonus to healthcare workers who stay in their positions for one year. But not all nurses are eligible, and they most certainly should be. The proposal is capped at an “annualized base salary” of $125,000.
That cap will ultimately exclude some registered nurses who have borne the brunt of the pandemic. That is particularly true in high-cost regions wages (New York City, Westchester, Long Island) which necessitate higher. It is also true for senior nurses and for nurses working night shifts and weekend positions, which sometimes offer shift differentials.
The exclusion of large numbers of nurses will negatively affect morale, which is already low. Additionally, excluding nurses coming out of one of the worst pandemics in a generation is insulting and inappropriate. If the retention bonus goes into effect as presently written (as of April 1, 2022), it will represent another failure in a string of mistakes on powerbrokers’ part. The state can and should do more to honor the frontline caregivers’ work and sacrifice.
Offering a $3,000 bonus may not dissuade a nurse from retiring (or taking a less-stressful job), but rest assured that denying the bonus to tens of thousands of nurses who have worked through the hellish conditions of the pandemic will be embittering. It may cause even more nurses to leave the bedside. That is a risk we need not take. NYSNA will be encouraging the administration to reverse course. That is reasonable and fair. It’s time to do the work to bring in long-term solutions for a quality healthcare workforce in New York.
The exclusion of large numbers of nurses will negatively affect morale, which is already low.”