Under the new contract NYSNA nurses can shape education and training to meet nurse needs, bringing the collective knowledge and dollars of nurses together. That’s what the new fund for union training and upgrading affords NYSNA nurses. This fall NYSNA nurses will begin to form the governance of this new benefit fund, set priorities and begin implementation of this important new educational and training opportunity.
By the terms of our new contract with the Health and Hospitals Corporation, 75 cents of every $100 of payroll will be allocated by HHC to the new fund. At current levels, that means that more than $5 million a year will be made available to nurses for these purposes. The fund will increase with future raises in wages.
Fund oversight and benefits
The new contract creates a jointly-administered independent fund for these benefits. This functions as an independent committee, not a management entity, and will determine the types of benefits and amounts paid, priorities to be set and other rules of eligibility and access.
Other unions have had strong success in the administration and direction of education and training funds in this fashion. Fellow caregivers at 1199SEIU have enjoyed these benefits for many years, with members setting direction and reviewing plan priorities on a regular basis. In Seattle, 1199SEIU NW likewise shares in the administration of a fund for the benefit of 24,000 healthcare workers, including registered nurses. The fund began in July, 2009.
At the outset, during a start-up period, bylaws are drafted, fund trustees selected, staff hired and fund budgets set. Once programs are selected, a high priority becomes the establishment of outreach so that all members are made aware of fund offerings and can choose to participate themselves.
In the realm of training and upgrading, BSN completion is in strong demand; course work towards a Masters Degree is also supported. Certificate exam preparation is also funded. Specialty review courses in Critical Care, Emergency Room, Pediatrics, Medical Surgical and Labor and Delivery are most common.
Under such funds, other unions have set up programs for admissions and career counseling, other forms of tuition assistance, such as in technical programs, and for full time scholarships. Free continuing education courses have also been offered.
It will be up to the NYSNA membership to make specific decisions about the allocation of fund resources: what technical and degree programs will be given priority; and what role will seniority play in funding distribution.
Other funds at work
It is important to stress that the needs and priorities of NYSNA members are central to the new fund for union training and upgrading. A democratic process of selecting members to serve on the fund governing body will be in place.
Other healthcare unions give high priority to BSN degree completion, paying 100% for up to 24 credits a year towards a certified, credentialed program. Often, hybrid courses which mix on-line with class work are permitted.
Where demand is high, unions have collaborated with colleges to hold classes inside hospitals to coincide with shift schedules.
Recently, new models have been pursued. In order to expedite last remaining credits towards the BSN, members in some unions receive one-day-per-week release time with stipend. In both the City University of New York and State University of New York systems, voucher programs have been set up, relieving members of up-front tuition payments. Other programs also remove the burden of up-front payment.
“Life experience” credits are being issued in some programs a popular way to accumulate credits.
Keeping skills current so that nurses can continue to provide quality, professional care to patients remains NYSNA’s highest priority.
Your participation is critical to the process of setting up these important benefits. Your questions and comments are welcome throughout the process in establishing and administering NYSNA's Union Trainging and Upgrading Fund.
"I'm going for my Masters. I go to Lehman to become a family nurse practitioner. I would be able to take on more courses and complete the program faster." - Inez Stewart, RN (at left)
"For me, education is very important. You have to take the course and stay up to date even if you're not pursuing a degree." - Olga Smuglina, RN, Woodhull Medical Center