Contacting Elected Officials About the Problems Gets Results

  1. Natalie.....
    Re: the meeting with my Assemblyman......

    It was a round table discussion here. 2 administrators from St Vincents, a nurse educator from college of S.I. nursing program, and the VP of pt services from Visting Nurses of SI were invited to educate the assemblyman on the reasons for the shortage & how to fix it. I was the only direct-care RN invited & he told me that was because I went to the NYSNA lobby day in Albany in March, visited his office & left the NYSNA legislative agenda packet with info on our proposals for solving the problem in NY & my card for him. If I hadnt done that, there would have been NO bedside nurse at this discussion to find ways to solve the bedside nurse shortage. Unbelievable!

    Anyway, I know St Vincents is having trouble with their stalled negotiations on a first contract, short staffing, mandatory OT & no overtime pay among other things so I contacted the bargaining unit co-chair at St Vincents & asked her to send someone to help me present the viewpoint from a direct-care nurses angle. She sent 2 from their negotiations committee - So it ended up 3 administrators, 3 staff Rns & an educator who also works at the bedside per diem in a SI nursing home. It was a good mix & a very good 2 hr discussion..........

    Of course the administrators kept saying they have to cut costs because of reimbursement & thats where all the problems come from. The Assemblyman asked But why are your financial problems being leveled on the backs of nurses??? The administrators stumbled over that one. The Assemblyman got a lot of info from the direct-care nurses & was astonsished. He asked the administrators a lot of tough questions & was on track in a lot of things like mandatory ot, etc. The administrators finally had to admit that workplace conditions are a problem for us & we are choosing to go to areas in business that pay better & are less stressful & risky.

    The Assemblyman wasnt so interested in our pay. He said we get better pay than teachers. One of the RNs pointed out that may be true but we also have slow or no growth for longevity & we have salary caps. He said we have to understand that while we work for private hospitals that are businesses, they are funded with public monies so we cant expect to be paid the same as if it were a private business...besides that, "none of you went into nursing to make money" anyway. We told him that that kind of thinking is probably how the administrators across the country look at it too but that RNs bills just like anyone else & compassion doesnt pay the mortgage. But if we have a need to help people, we can do that through volunteer work while having a job in another field that provides adequate compensation - including a salary worthy of our skills & knowledge. He was informed that RNs have other choices now where they are better paid, better respected, better valued, better compensated & have less stress & physical labor & thats why there is a shortage of nurses willing to work in hospitals & LTC.

    He was told that hospitals have to recognize they are competing not only with each other but also with the business world for nurses & so far, the business world is making the most attractive offers......and with less wear & tear on our bodies. He was made to understand that healthcare facilities cut staff to the bare minimums to cut overhead costs & there is a not only a lack of nurses at the bedside but also a lack of support services to help us do our jobs & its an impossible situation that is not being addressed by administrators so we are leaving. Administrators keep saying they dont have the money but is a bit hard to swallow when our CEOs are making millions of dollars a yr. Of course, the administrators said no such thing is happening. I wish I had the list of CEO salaries with me............

    He asked what to do to keep veteran nurses at work. We told him increase pay, improve compensation/benefits/pensions to compete with the business world - not just the hospital down the street AND the Ergonomics Standard that Clinton passed in January to force hospitals to provide safe stuff like lifting equipment would have helped ease the physical demands of the job & keep older nurses working but Congress bowed to Bush & big business & voted to rescind that rule in April because it would have cost their business buddies in healthcare money to put those standards into place........

    He was most concerned with recruiting new students & is interested in nurse funding, conditional scholarships where tutition is paid while the nurse agrees to work in a short-staffed neighborhood for a period of time. (NYSNA proposals). He was told no matter how much funding is given to draw new students, unless workplace conditions and compensation improves, they wont be staying either. We gave him statistics from RN surveys that show new nurses are leaving the bedside within 1-5 yrs of getting the job. He got a lot of info which he wouldnt have had if I had not participated in the Lobby Day & there were no bedside nurses at this discussion.

    I gave him some stuff about NYSNAs legislative agenda & what we want supported & why. And also the UAN newsletter. The photographer took a picture of us with him holding up the inside of the newsletter which is a poster of a pt pushing the call bell & it says "How long till your nurse can get there? Good Question."

    After the discussion was finished, the St Vincents nurse took the opportunity to give him a letter from her negotiating committee about the nonsense thats going there & how they are being treated. She gave a copy to the reporter & spoke with her for a while. Talk about taking advantage of an opportunity!! The direct-care Rns ruled the discussion and for every point we made, the administrators answer was it all comes back to reimbursement. SO how come you can build new buildings, renovate offices, pay exorbitant salaries to executives, and give them all their perks - like free country club membership, leased BMWs, free luxury apartments, etc. Ummmmmmmm....... no answer.........

    There is money, its just not getting to the nursing dept or the nurses so we asked the Assemblyman to support NYSNAs proposal to tie reimbursement to the hospitals efforts at recruitment/retention, enhance funding to the hospitals to reflect the cost of increasing recruitment & retention initiatives, and provide that reimbursement directly to the dept of nursing and not the hosptials overall operating costs as is done now. He thought that was very innovative. The administrators almost fell off their chairs. ; )

    In the end, he said he will look further at the other issues and agreed to support our proposals from NYSNA on nursing education funding for new students, funding for nurse educators to teach them, funding for expanded nursing programs, enhanced recruitment of minorities (which are still under-represented in nursing), and continuing education requirements for license renewal that will encourage facilities to provide more training programs for nurses. All of which he would not have heard about if direct-care RNs were not at that meeting.

    Just think........All this because I left a note in my Assemblymans office. ; )

    Anyway, there should be something about it in our newspaper today.
  2. Visit -jt profile page

    About -jt

    Joined: Oct '00; Posts: 2,662; Likes: 46


  3. by   natalie

    Our hospital recently made a private deal with approx. 15 graduating RN's. It's something to the effect-they'll pay up to $5000.00 in tuition loans made to each nurse over the period of a few years, with the promise by the nurse to work in the hospital. This would normally be supported by the veteran nurses at the hospital. We believe these new nurses deserve the recruitment efforts to work in these conditions. However, this was all done without union notification. Our union rep. told administration that this offer was comparable to giving the loyal nurses who have worked at the hospital 20 plus years a 7% raise. The administration's response was No, they could not afford it. The union had to vote no on the recruitment offer. Too bad.

    Now in the meantime, there is a substantial addition and renovation going on. And in the local paper, there was a new job posting for an Assistance Director of Public Relations and Development. This is in addition to the Executive Director of Public Relations job we already have here. jt-you know where I work. It's the only hospital in a 50 mile radius, yet administration determines we need these PR positions and they send out glossy pamphlets to the community. It's all about priorities. Too bad they don't really know the best PR is decent nursing care.
  4. by   -jt
    <Too bad they don't really know the best PR is decent nursing care.>

    Our hospital spent a fortune to advertize on the left field wall at Yankee Stadium and put a banner up at the Liberty Basketball games in an effort to recruit new pts. (I kid you not!). But We suggested at our last negotiations that the hospital should agree to our staffing ratios & then ADVERTIZE that they had the best nurse t ratos in Brooklyn & capitalize on what that means. Couldnt you just see the ad campaign they could do off that? It would get the attention of potential pts who would choose our hospital because they know they have enough nurses, AND it would get the attention of nurses who would like the idea of working in a place that isnt going to run them into the ground. Just imagine - recruiting pts AND nurses for the price of one ad. Smart business, no? Well they DID agree to our staffing ratios but we still havent seen the ad campaign. Maybe they dont want the public to relate nurse t ratios to high quality care. But Hackensack General in NJ did just that a while ago ( the TV & radio commercials were all about the importance of nurses & were excellent) & they ended up with a waiting list of nurses wanting to work there, new pts going from NY to NJ to go to that hospital for care,and they received a Magnet Status for Nursing Excellence Award from the ANcc as well.

    Damn...... they should just let us run the world. ; )
  5. by   -jt
    hey! who put those smiles in there?

    oh'll just have to figure out its supposed to read "nurse atient ratios"
  6. by   oramar
    -jt, you did an awesome job of stating you case, hats off to you.
  7. by   mustangsheba
    jt - THANK YOU!!! You did great. Wouldn't it be wonderful if funds were actually given to the department of nursing instead of disappearing into the maw of administration? Great idea!!
  8. by   -jt
    Wouldn't it be wonderful if funds were actually given to the department of nursing instead of disappearing into the maw of administration? Great idea!!

    yes it would!
    but it wasnt my idea! Its my state associations proposal & is in the legislature being considered. I just reminded him to vote for it!
  9. by   NRSKarenRN

    We never know what impact we make. What would have happened if just administrators were there??? Well done presenting your view points, it pays to be prepareed.

    BEDSIDE nurses need to write, speakout if they want their practice setting to change. No one else if going to do it for us!
  10. by   -jt
    <We never know what impact we make. What would have happened if just administrators were there??? Well done presenting your view points, it pays to be prepareed.
    BEDSIDE nurses need to write, speakout if they want their practice setting to change. No one else if going to do it for us!>

    And it was soooo easy! I had left the note in the Assemblymans office way back in March then never heard from him. Then I came back from vacation in Atlantic City/Philadelphia & just found the invitation in a stack of mail I hadnt read yet - the night before the meeting. So, I quickly reviewed my state associations legislative agenda on its website, printed out a few things & sent an email to another nurse to send an RN there to help me present our case. Then I told my 14 yr old to come straight home from school & meet her 9 yr old sisters bus & stay with her till got back from the meeting. That day I went over the stuff I printed out, slipped on a skirt & drove over to the meeting 20 minutes from my house.

    I had no idea what to expect, I never did this before. But I figure, its my community, this guy is going to vote for laws I have to live with & that will affect my practice so I want to have a say. And I want him to vote in the right laws. I felt very comfortable speaking on the issues because we all know them back & forth & inside out. And I had the cheat sheets I printed out in front of me! I had highlighted a few things & after it was over, I gave him all the stuff I brought - for his reading pleasure. It was so easy. We all can do this. All we have to do is have some idea about the issues, have a knowledge of what the solutions are, & we have to like to talk. Judging from this BB, Im not the only one who fits the bill! ; )
    One more thing...... we have to invite them to sit down & talk with us. I extended that invitation to this Assembly way back in March. 2 months later, he took me up on it & learned a lot.
    Peggy, does this qualify for having met your challenge??? Who's next?
    ; )
  11. by   PeggyOhio
    Now if we could just infect about 1,999,999 nurses with your zeal, we'd really get somewhere!

    Hats off to you!
    You are my hero.

    [ May 26, 2001: Message edited by: PeggyOhio ]
  12. by   nurs4kids
    pretty dawggone impressive, jt! You guys just might motivate me yet:P
  13. by   Mijourney
    Hi -jt. Congratulations. Continue in your persistence with this. There is a great need for all of us direct bedside caregivers to learn the ins and outs of the health and medical industrial complex so that we can accurately articulate to our various administrators and politicians what time it really is.
  14. by   PeggyOhio
    Here is a website that might give you some ammunition to use when discussing CEO wages.


    Here's another:

    [ May 26, 2001: Message edited by: PeggyOhio ]