Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Nurses are the backbone of healthcare and healthcare seems intent sometimes on breaking their backs. Nurses in New York like nurses all across the country are getting tired of it all.

The first article below is from the New York State Nurses Association. The second is from the Albany Times.

Union Nurses Join Forces to Protect Patients
Rally at the State Capitol, demanding end to mandatory overtime

ALBANY, N.Y., May 2, 2006 — Hundreds of nurses from four prominent nurses’ unions came to Albany today to call for legislation that would ban mandatory overtime and ensure safe nurse staffing.

Busloads of nurses came from all over the state to attend a rally on the steps of the State Capitol. They were members of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), the Nurse Alliance of New York State 1199 SEIU, the New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF), and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT).

Mandatory overtime is used by healthcare employers to keep nurses on the job beyond their regular shifts. Nurses say they are more likely to make mistakes in patient care when they work long hours. In a 2002 survey by the State Education Department, 59% of registered nurses reported they had been “mandated” – forced to work overtime.

“Nurses throughout New York State and across the country are struggling to deliver the care patients deserve,” stated 1199 SEIU Executive Vice President Jennifer Cunningham. “Chronic short staffing, low wages, and mandatory overtime have sent this industry into a crisis, and these issues need to be addressed immediately.”

“This isn’t a nursing issue. It’s a public health issue,” said Verlia Brown, president of the New York State Nurses Association and a critical care nurse at Kings County Medical Center in Brooklyn. “Short staffing and mandatory overtime put patients’ lives at risk. Our lawmakers must have the courage to ensure that patients have what is most fundamental to their well-being: care from registered professional nurses.”

“The negative effect of mandatory overtime on patients and nurses is becoming one of the most serious health care issues of our time,” said PEF President Roger Benson. “At least 11 other states have passed laws or adopted new regulations to protect the public by limiting the number of hours caregivers can work. It’s time New York state legislators and the governor addressed this problem.”

“In 2002, Capital Region reporter Michael Hurewitz died at a hospital in New York City after donating part of his liver to his brother,” said Alan B. Lubin, executive vice president of NYSUT, which represents several thousand nurses statewide. “An investigation found that Hurewitz didn’t receive adequate care after surgery due to insufficient staffing. It took his death to get the Department of Health to adopt minimum nurse staffing rules for liver transplants. Does another high-profile New Yorker have to die before the state establishes patient-to-nurse ratios for all patients?”

NYSNA is the oldest and largest state nurses’ association in the nation, with more than 34,000 members. It is the union for registered nurses working at 150 facilities in New York and New Jersey, including hospitals, nursing homes, county health departments, home care agencies, public schools, and New York City public hospitals and mayoral agencies. NYSNA is a constituent of the American Nurses Association and United American Nurses, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

NYSUT, the largest union in New York State, representing more than 525,000 classroom teachers and school employees, including 12,000 healthcare professionals: hospital nurses, school nurses, therapists, nursing instructors, lab technicians, and psychologists. NYSUT also represents academic and professional faculty at the state’s community colleges, State University of New York and City University of New York; other education professionals; and retirees.

The Nurse Alliance of New York State/1199 SEIU is the coordinating body for over 27,000 Service Employee International Union RNs, LPNs, and Advanced Practice RNs in New York State.

The New York State Public Employees Federation represents 54,000 professional public employees, including more than 8,500 registered nurses who work in the state’s 70 correctional facilities, three SUNY hospitals, 28 New York State Office of Mental Hygiene facilities; Roswell Park Cancer Institute and other state agencies.


Nurses say they need less OT, more help

ALBANY — It's not uncommon to get a call 15 minutes before the end of a shift and be told you have to work more hours, nurses who want to end mandatory overtime and convince hospitals to hire more staff said during a rally outside the Capitol yesterday.

Working regular double shifts, often while sleep-deprived, threatens patient safety, they said. Studies have shown that nurses who work beyond their regular hours make more mistakes, according to four nursing unions that organized the event.

Barbara Serafin of Blauvelt and Beverley Williams of Spring Valley said there were more than a dozen vacancies for nurses at Rockland Psychiatric Center, plus workers out for injuries they got on the job.

Williams, 55, said she remembered being off one Christmas and receiving an early-morning call saying she was needed at the hospital. Fifteen minutes before her shift was over, she received a call telling her she had to stay until 11:45 p.m.

"I didn't get any sleep that night. I missed Christmas. I missed everything," she said.

At least 11 states limit the number of hours caregivers can work, Roger Benson, president of the New York State Public Employee Federation, told hundreds of nurses from around the state who gathered outside the Capitol.

"Nurses and other medical staff dispense medication, make life-and-death decisions and perform procedures that with one mistake caused by exhaustion can have life-threatening consequences," he said.

The Legislature is considering a bill that would bar health-care employers from requiring nurses to work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours in a week. There would be exceptions for emergencies, and nurses could voluntarily accept overtime. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Thomas Morahan, R-New City, and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, D-Queens.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, Rensselaer County, said he was in discussions with legislative leaders about passing a bill.

"We support it conceptually. We've got to get it done," he said.

The Assembly is holding a hearing on the issue May 18.

"We are seriously concerned that our nurses are being overworked to the point where fatigue is driving your colleagues out of the profession," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, told the nurses.

But Gov. George Pataki said patient safety should be paramount and sometimes working overtime might be necessary.

"Suppose there is a time when, at the last minute, two or three people call in and aren't going to be there for their shift. Are you going to tell the patients they won't have nurses for the next three or four hours?" he asked.

A spokesman for the Healthcare Association of New York State said the majority of hospitals do not have mandatory overtime.

"No one likes mandatory overtime. Employers don't like it. Staff don't like it," spokesman William Van Slyke said. "However, it's a reality and it's a manifestation of the real problem, and that is the critical nurse shortage New York and many other states are facing."

The best way to resolve it to get more people into nursing, he said.

According to the nursing unions, 59 percent of registered nurses reported in a 2002 survey that they had been forced to work overtime.

There are 237,000 registered nurses in the state, but more than 69,000 are not practicing, the unions said.

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