More than 100 NYSNA nurses and supporters held a press conference on the steps of City Hall on Nov. 30 ahead of a New York City Council oversight hearing on the state of nursing in New York City and on solutions to the short-staffing crisis. NYSNA nurses and allies say New York City can’t afford to wait another minute to address the hospital-created registered nurse (RN) staffing crisis with pediatric units already overflowing with RSV cases and with the threat of a “tripledemic” of COVID-19, RSV and flu as the winter months approach. In addition to NYSNA nurses, New York City Council Hospitals Chair Mercedes Narcisse, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, NYC Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO and other allies attended as well.
“Our patients are suffering because of short staffing too,” said Craig Berke, RN, of Flushing Hospital. “In the emergency department, each nurse should be assigned six patients. There are times when nurses are charged with caring for more than 15. This is unacceptable. As a result of deficits in staffing, nurses do not call out and work overtime. Nurses end up working a 16-hour shift, which can become exhausting for nurses and unsafe for patients.”
NYSNA nurses from the largest academic medical centers to the smallest safety-net hospitals shared details on terrible working conditions in the city’s hospitals, including the safe staffing and healthcare crisis that is putting patients at risk and driving nurses away from the bedside.
Approximately 17,000 NYSNA members at 12 hospitals in New York City, including private hospitals such as Montefiore, Mt. Sinai and NewYork-Presbyterian, have contracts that expired on Dec. 31. Hospital executives paid themselves millions in sky-high salaries and bonuses during the pandemic at the same time they hiked hospital prices. Nurses are calling for their bosses to invest in hiring and retaining enough nurses to keep their patients safe.
“In our last union contract, the hospital management and NYSNA agreed to a staffing grid that would maintain 17 nurses on shift day and night,” said Kiera Downes-Vogel, RN, of Mount Sinai West. “But our staffing almost never meets the number 17; patients are lucky if we are scheduled for 15. Research has shown that appropriate staffing improves patient health, prevents death and reduces nurse turnover. Our current staffing has only exacerbated nurses leaving because they are frustrated and exhausted.”
Fighting for Our Future
“When I started out as a young nurse, I was given ample time to train,” said Lorena Vivas, RN. “We had safe patient ratios. Today they understaff the hospital to maximize profits. Mount Sinai Hospital has over 500 vacancies for nursing positions.”
With two-thirds of RNs across the country saying they are planning to leave the profession in the next two years, NYSNA nurses are sounding the alarm on the staffing crisis that has left caregivers burnt out and at their breaking point. Nurses say that hospitals are not doing enough to keep them at the bedside — from safe staffing ratios to good healthcare benefits to competitive pay.