Southside RNs unite for safer staffing

Southside Hospital’s NYSNA nurses united to raise the alarm about patient safety beginning last fall when word spread that the Brain Injury Unit’s already thin staff would be cut further.

Since then, members have come together to speak with a united voice for our patients in meetings with management to explain the already bad staffing situation and how cuts would worsen the staffing crisis. Nurse after nurse told stories of working on the unit and feeling lucky to get through each day. Sue Renz-Fetter, RN, explained, “the nurse staffing crisis is exacerbated by the fact that there is no ancillary staffing assigned to the unit, we get no support from the hospital’s float pool, and we must constantly deal with broken and missing equipment.”

Francine Castellino, RN, added, “These patients require a lot of attention. They need a nurse to help them to the bathroom, take them to the dining room for meals, and crush their medications. And then there’s dealing with family members and all the documentation.”

Unsafe patient loads

“We rarely get to take our lunch or break. If we do, the nurse that stays on duty could have 14 patients,” said Debbie Noller, RN.

Despite a seemingly sympathetic ear from the DON, management cut the unit’s RN staffing from 4 to 3 on January 1. Members decided to amp up an ongoing POA campaign to document safety concerns. Over the six months between September and February, BIU nurses filed 91 POAs with 240 signatures. In March, they sent the POAs to NYSNA’s Nursing Education and Practice (NEP) department for preparation of a patient care chronicle (PCC).

At the May 17 NYSNA Labor Management Meeting at Southside Hospital, Carol Lynn Esposito, RN and NYSNA’s NEP Director, presented the PCC’s findings. Management hasn’t yet responded, but Felicia Breen, a BIU RN said, “The experience of the last several months has empowered us to stay united and keep fighting to improve staffing. These patients need us to be their advocates.”

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