Nurses turn to unions at a key moment in healthcare history

Nurses Activism


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Nurses' increased interest in unions has come in the midst of rising hospital admissions, a nationwide nursing shortage and the aging of those who remain in the profession, and healthcare and union leaders agree that the desire for respect plays a role in the decision to unionize.

The Tennessean, Oct. 21, 2003

Yep, a nation wide union is brewing for nurses who are tired of being patted on the head and told "we can't afford to give you a raise of more than 3%, and no COL is out of the question". Yes, our facility cleared over 150 mil last year, but we have to keep up with the docs requests for better equiptment. LOL, I hope I live to see the day when nurses take advantage of the power we have but fail to use.

Hellllllo Nurse, BSN, RN

3 Articles; 3,563 Posts

Fantastic article!

I love that the article states that nurses are joining unions for respect, and to be able to give good pt care, not for money.

Very inspiring and hopeful article.


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Nurse Staffing: Curing the Crisis

Union Nurses Fight For Safe Staffing


Inadequate hospital staffing is jeopardizing quality patient care and driving experienced, committed nurses from their profession.

"If you talk to any nurse, they will tell you they love their jobs," says Ann Converso, a 30-year registered nurse in Buffalo, N.Y., and a member and vice president of the United American Nurses (UAN) - the national labor union for RNs and an affiliate of the ANA and AFL-CIO.

"But many of them leave because of the working conditions-one nurse for 12 or 15 patients. You can't work like that. You're prohibited from giving quality care because you're just doing tasks to keep up."

So, half a million nurses from the AFL-CIO unions have come together in an unprecedented effort for safe staffing standards. On national Nurse Day, May 6, AFL-CIO Nurses: A United Voice for Safe Staffing Now kicked off a campaign for federal and state legislation to set safe nurse staffing standards in hospitals.

Nurses, legislators and consumer advocates rallied at Capitol Hill, where they discussed the need for safe staffing standards and released a national poll commissioned by the new AFL-CIO Nurses campaign on the public's view of how the nursing crisis affects patients. During Nurse Week, May 6-12, nurses from AFL-CIO unions planned meetings, rallies and lobbying visits to support safe staffing in cities and towns around the country. All nurses and anyone concerned with the staffing crisis were invited to participate in these events.

Recent studies have shown that low nurse staffing levels in hospitals lead to thousands of preventable deaths and injuries. A recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that when a hospital decreases a registered nurse's patient load from eight patients to four, the risk that a surgical patient will die within 30 days is lowered by nearly one-third.

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) reported the nurse shortage was a factor in 24 percent of the unanticipated events that resulted in death, injury or permanent loss of function between 1997 and 2002. In its report, Health Care at the Crossroads, JCAHO found the nurse staffing problem is a major factor in emergency room overcrowding, cancellation of elective surgeries, discontinuation of clinical services and the limited ability of the health system to respond to any mass casualty incident. In addition, 90 percent of nursing homes reported an insufficient number of nurses to provide even the most basic care, and some home health agencies are being forced to refuse new admissions.

To improve working conditions, union nurses have lobbied state legislators, urging them to mandate safe staffing standards in hospitals and nursing homes. Nurses in California successfully pushed the state to adopt staffing ratios between nurses and patients-the first such measure in the nation. Unionized nurses working in hospitals in more than 20 states also have won contracts that include safe staffing ratios.

"Nurses are fed up with hospital staffing conditions that put our patients at risk. We're determined to do something about it," says Diane Lataille, a registered nurse in Pittsburgh.

Last year, Congress passed the Nurse Reinvestment Act, which provides scholarships in exchange for commitments to serve in public or private nonprofit health facilities in areas with critical nurse shortages. But the act is "an initial response, not the total answer" to the nurse shortage, says Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a medical doctor. In fact, recruitment programs alone will just create a revolving door. Learn more about the fight for safe staffing and participating in the upcoming events:

Visit the websites of the AFL-CIO unions that formed AFL-CIO Nurses:

United American Nurses - THE national union exclusively for RNs

AFGE - Veterans Affairs Nurses

AFSCME - United Nurses of America

AFT - Healthcare

Communications Workers of America - Public and Health Care Workers

SEIU - Nurse Alliance;

United Food and Commercial Workers - Health Care Division.

links at


1 Article; 5,758 Posts

I have been following your "retention" thread and wondering how it was going. Couple of interesting articles.

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