The start of a new year brings anticipation. There is anticipation of what one hopes to accomplish personally and professionally. There is also trepidation about uncertainty for what the coming year may bring. While there is a lot we do not know, there are key things we are certain will greet us in 2022. As we round out 2021 and prepare to enter a new year, NYSNA is mindful that our work fighting for healthcare workers and patients is entering a new frontier. Below are four key things we are preparing for in the coming year.
1. Implementation of the Safe Staffing Law
One of the greatest surprises of adulthood is that one must defend what has already been earned. As a child, I thought victories were per-manent. I thought civil rights leaders’ work would carry over perpetually. I believed societal gains could never be reversed. But in virtually every category of life, there are examples of things won years prior that later required protecting. Healthcare is no exception.
Earlier this year, nurses and healthcare workers celebrated passage of the safe staffing law. They saw the law as one step toward ensuring better working conditions. They believed lawmakers were finally listening and responding to their needs.
For years, healthcare workers have gone out of their way to detail the challenges with unsafe staffing. They have worked to ensure that both patients and caregivers have what they need. After securing an important victory, many are once again preparing to fight.
Although nurses and other healthcare workers fought hard to ensure protections that enable them to do their jobs, employers and business interests are now seeking to roll back the clock. Under the guise of fallout from a pandemic, employers are saying they need more time to enforce staffing ratios. While they knew low staffing was mission critical, many employers refused to improve working conditions that would have allowed them to better recruit and retain healthcare workers. Now, some health systems are saying do not have what they need to en-force the safe staffing law, a measure that will improve patient outcomes and protect nurses and healthcare workers.
NYSNA must be clear: There is no justification for delaying the implementation of a law that will keep patients and caregivers alive and safe. Nurses and other healthcare workers have been beat down for years. Some faced mental healthcare breaks because of caring for so many patients and lacking sufficient resources. Many were counting on the implementation of that law to have some form of relief. Moreover, un-less there is a clear law on the books (with enforcement provisions) to regulate staffing, some employers will cut corners, further endangering the people they’re in business to serve.
In 2022, NYSNA will be fighting to ensure the implementation of a key measure. This is mission critical for the coming year.
Next year, NYSNA will also bargain a record number of contracts. Members across regions and systems will return to the table and negotiate for that which enables nurses to care for themselves, their families and their patients. From lived experience and years of research, NYSNA understands that nurses and patients are safer when caregivers have a voice on the job. Our union will wage an unrelenting fight to protect that voice and to ensure that healthcare workers have what they need to provide the high level of service they value. Some health systems will dig in their heels and plead distress. NYSNA will raise our voices, understanding that if we do not show up for us, no one will. One of the ways we’ll prepare for bargaining is via a host of bargaining conferences. The bargaining conferences present an opportunity for workers to unite across employers and regions to learn best practices and strategies to improve the likelihood of getting a fair contract. That is pivotal because employers are applying Band-Aids to deep, structural challenges. During bargaining, we want to push employers to be for-ward-looking rather than instituting knee-jerk solutions that have a long-term negative impact. As we prepare for this season, I’m asking you to stay close to your union siblings. We gain strength when we unite in solidarity. I am ready for this period, and I know you are too.
3. Local, State and Congressional Elections
The 2022 midterms will determine who sits in the governor’s mansion in Albany. They will determine who represents nurses in Congress. They will also impact our local leaders such as sheriffs, judges, and prosecutors. All elections are important, and this cycle is no exception. Now is the time to ensure you are registered to vote. Now is the time to ensure you understand who will be on the ballot and what they stand for. Now may even be the time for you to consider whether you will run for office now or in the future. Now is also the time to engage your friends and family, ensuring they are registered to vote and dedicated to voting. We know that elections have consequences. But now is the time to ensure the consequences advantage us and not the people who oppose us.
The COVID-19 pandemic altered the way we live, work and commune with each other. Certainly, the health crisis impacted us all, but it was uniquely felt by nurses and other healthcare workers. From working around the clock, to watching colleagues as well as friends and family fall ill from the virus, to lacking basic supplies to keep themselves and patients safe, the pandemic was akin to a nightmare. It wasn’t that nurses don’t enjoy their calling; it was that they lacked the resources to provide the level of care they were accustomed to providing. Although the height of the crisis has abated, nurses are now left to pick up the pieces, albeit with fewer staff. Therefore, every report about an impending surge or a new variant is cause for concern. The announcement of DELTA and now Omicron, is triggering panic and anxiety. As we enter 2022, the fallout of the pandemic will occupy our hearts and minds. As a union, we will continue to advocate for our professions, and fight to ensure that healthcare workers receive the level of support necessary to continue providing care.
We know 2022 is a big year. But we also know that everything we’ve been through over the past several years has prepared us for this moment. We are therefore greeting this moment confident in the power of our unity.