Mount Sinai Critical Care Nurses Win Safe Staffing Enforcement Award

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Mount Sinai Critical Care Nurses Win Safe Staffing Enforcement Award

Arbitrator Awards Nurses $220,000 for Working in Chronically Understaffed Unit

Hospital Ordered to Follow Safe Staffing Ratio, Provide Breaks, and Hire More Nurses

New York, N.Y. — Nurses from the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) who work in Mount Sinai Hospital’s cardiac surgery and cardiovascular intensive care units (ICU) won an arbitration award last week after tracking the staffing and patient acuity levels on their unit over the course of several months this Spring.

The arbitrator listened to testimony from critical care nurses and reviewed protest of assignment forms (POAs) and data that nurses tracked daily to determine that “there has been a ‘persistent’ pattern of staffing violations and a ‘continuous chronic pattern of ratios’ being violated on unit 5C/5E.” He awarded the nurses who work on understaffed shifts a total of $221,192 to be divided between the nurses depending on hours worked from Feb. 9, through June 23, 2023. The nurses must be paid their remedy within two pay periods.

In addition to the monetary remedy, the arbitrator issued several directives to Mount Sinai administration to comply with the collective bargaining agreement, including:

  • Follow a safe staffing ratio of 1:2 and 1:1 for high acuity patients.
  • Provide nurses with full meal and break periods and staff break nurses to cover patient assignments during break time.
  • Continuously post, recruit and hire more nurses to fill remaining vacancies on the unit to attain safe staffing on day and night shifts.

Jackie VanVliet, RN, said: “In the cardiac surgical ICU, we work with some of the sickest patients who come from all over the world to receive cardiac and thoracic surgeries. We have been grossly understaffed for years and have tried to work with management to improve conditions, but despite our efforts, understaffing only worsened. I have witnessed great, hard-working nurses leave our unit due to the conditions. Although monetary compensation is appreciated, I testified and participated in this arbitration process to change the trajectory of nurses leaving the profession, for the nurses who have been working through these conditions, and most importantly, for the patients and their families who deserve safe, quality of care during potentially some of the most traumatic moments of their lives.”

This arbitration award builds upon the earlier staffing awards issued against Mount Sinai. It further establishes useful precedent to disincentive the hospital system from chronically understaffing units. The expedited staffing enforcement wins and financial penalties that are now awarded to nurses are a result of new contract language won in Jan. 2023 after a contract fight and nurses’ strike at Mount Sinai.

This is the third arbitration award against Mount Sinai that delivered financial remedies to understaffed nurses. On June 9, NYSNA night shift nurses in the Mount Sinai Morningside Emergency Department were awarded $37,416.96 for “a consistent discrepancy between the mandated staffing level and the number of RNs actually working” which has “adversely impacted the nurses working these dates and shifts and resulted in nurses having excessive workloads.” In addition to the financial penalty, the administration was ordered to improve staffing through measures such as providing overtime incentives and hiring qualified per diems as staff nurses.

On May 11, Neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) nurses at Mount Sinai Hospital made history by winning $127,057 in back pay — the first test of their new staffing enforcement contract language, and the first time that nurses were awarded additional compensation for working understaffed.

NYSNA Executive Director Pat Kane, RN, said: “This latest arbitration award is a victory for the nurses who were forced to work without enough staff and breaks, and ultimately for the patients at Mount Sinai who will benefit from better nurse staffing and safer conditions if the administration complies with the arbitrator’s remedies. The responsibility for holding hospitals accountable for safe standards in New York’s hospitals should not rest solely on hardworking nurses. We also need the New York State Department of Health to fulfill its responsibilities to enforce the hospital staffing committee law.”


The New York State Nurses Association represents more than 42,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses. NYSNA is an affiliate of National Nurses United, AFL-CIO, the country's largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses, with more than 225,000 members nationwide.

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The New York State Nurses Association is a union of 42,000 frontline nurses united together for strength at work, our practice, safe staffing, and healthcare for all. We are New York's largest union and professional association for registered nurses.