Thousands of nurses rally nationwide for safe staffing
By Michelle Morris
Thousands of registered nurse members of National Nurses United (NNU) held actions on Jan. 26 to demand the hospital industry end their profession’s staffing crisis by providing safe numbers of nurses to care for patients. The nationwide protests highlighted the ongoing “quad-demic” (Covid-19, influenza, and RSV, combined with crisis standards of care) fueled by the hospital industry’s prioritization of money over patient care.
NNU nurses emphasized that this winter’s surge in RSV, influenza, and Covid-19 patients resulted in crisis conditions because of a decades-long campaign by hospitals to decrease inpatient beds — particularly in pediatric units and units deemed less profitable — and short-staff units in order to maximize profits.
“We’re the most trusted profession in America because we do everything in our power to take care of our patients, whether it’s at the bedside or on the streets to fight back against corporate greed,” said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN, referencing the December 2022 Gallup polling that found nurses hold the highest professional ranking among Americans for ethics and honesty, a recognition they’ve claimed for the past 21 years. “On our national day of action, NNU members were standing up for staffing models that adequately protect patients, nurses, and our communities against public health crises.”
With nearly 225,000 members, NNU is the country’s largest union of RNs and the leading voice in the fight to pass federal legislation to establish safe staffing and nurse-to-patient ratio standards. In addition to these efforts, NNU members also are working to win safe staffing standards during contract negotiations to make them permanent provisions of their collective bargaining agreements.
In 1999, NNU affiliate, California Nurses Association, successfully sponsored and lobbied the California Legislature to pass A.B. 394, the landmark, first-in-the-nation bill that made minimum, specific numerical staffing ratios the golden standard in the Golden State and inspired similar efforts in other states.
Official research shows that better nurse-to-patient ratios reduce patient mortality. A 2021 study by Dr. Linda Aiken showed that if New York state had the same staffing mandate as California at least 4,370 lives would have been saved that year alone.
Earlier this month, 7,000 members of New York State Nurses Association, an affiliate of NNU, captured national and international headlines by striking for three days over unacceptably poor levels of RN staffing and the need for safe staffing standards. In September 2022, 15,000 members of Minnesota Nurses Association, also an affiliate of NNU, participated in the largest private-sector strike in nursing history, ultimately winning contracts that will give nurses a say in how staffing levels are set for the benefit of nurses and their patients.
Michelle Morris is a communications specialist at National Nurses United.