Speaking truth to power

Our Lobby Day in Albany this year was a resounding success! Our nurses came together to speak truth to power — basic truths upon which the survival of our patients, our profession, and the very healthcare system in this state and country rely.

Truth #1: There’s a staffing crisis in our hospitals.

Last year nurses in 14 of New York City’s non-profit hospitals filed more than 25,000 Protests of Assignment, the vast majority a result of understaffing. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Research has shown that between 10 and 20 percent of such situations rise to the point of documentation, meaning that at least 250,000 additional patients found themselves in unsafe situations in these 14 hospitals alone. Add in the potential POAs at the state’s other 200 hospitals and you get a sobering, and frightening, sense of the enormity of the crisis.

Truth #2: Hospitals are not putting patients first.

Instead of investing in more nurses and caregivers, these hospitals choose to pay millions in executive salaries, bring in high-priced consultants to advise on the latest management craze, develop sophisticated marketing campaigns, and spend millions lobbying legislators to convince them that quality healthcare is a factor of something other than having enough hospital beds, nurses and caregivers. They neglect to mention overcrowding in our ERs and unreasonably long waits at our clinics, resulting from too many hospital closures.

Truth #3: We work in a broken healthcare system.

Our health system is fundamentally damaged beyond band-aid repair. Too many parties are in it to make a buck off the misfortune of the sick and injured. The entire reimbursement system must be changed. The first step is creating a Single Payer System that cares for all patients without the interference of predatory insurance companies and other profit-driven enterprises seeking to drain the system until there’s nothing left for patient care. Only under a system of universal access to care based on the highest quality for everyone — not on ability to pay, social status, or any other demographic impediment — will there be enough resources directed to the proper care for patients.

Truth #4: Nurses and caregivers bear the burden of understaffing.

Every day we witness the pain and suffering of our patients as we rush out the door of one room to get to the next. It takes a physical and mental toll; we leave work exhausted and regretting that we did not get to give our patients the time and attention they needed and deserved. Our daily exposure to the inequities in our healthcare system leads to premature burnout for far too many nurses.

Truth #5: Nurses have power.

Americans place a high level of trust in nurses, and when nurses talk, people listen. On April 16, thousands of nurses representing 17 hospital facilities hit the streets of New York City and Westchester to educate patients on the need for safe staffing. Nurses give the phrase “Audacity of Hope” new meaning. Each and every day, we use our audacity and power to protect the public; to advocate for society’s most vulnerable; to promote safety in our healthcare institutions; to fight for enough nurses at the bedside, in our clinics, in our schools and wherever we are needed to take proper care of our communities; and to fight for a humane healthcare system that puts people before profits.

Legislated, scientifically-based safe staffing ratios and improved and expanded Medicare for All — the bills we promoted in Albany on Lobby Day and for which we advocate every day — will provide us with the basic tools needed to save lives at our workplaces and support quality of life and healthy communities. Anything less is not acceptable. Let’s use our power!

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