Registered Nurses Applaud Introduction of Legislation to Improve V.A. Patient Care
National Nurses United, the largest union of registered nurses in the United States, applauded the re-introduction today of federal legislation to restore collective bargaining rights to registered nurses and other clinicians working at Veterans Administration medical centers. The legislation would improve patient care in V.A. hospitals and strengthen the healthcare work force in those facilities.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) re-introduced the V.A. Employee Fairness Act today with 3 Senators and 25 Representatives signed on as co-sponsors. The legislation would reform Section 7422 of Title 38 of the U.S. code, which currently limits the rights of VA professionals in collective bargaining.
“Registered nurses are on the front lines of patient care for our nation’s veterans – in fact, they serve as the first line of defense for patients in the V.A.,” said Jean Ross, RN, Co-President of National Nurses United. “Without full collective bargaining rights, V.A. nurses have been limited in their ability to speak out about working conditions that impact the quality and safety of patient care, such as safe staffing.
“The restoration of their full collective bargaining rights is necessary for registered nurses to serve as effective advocates for their patients,” she continued. “We applaud Senator Brown and Rep. Takano for fighting for improved patient care in the V.A., and the restoration of the rights of RNs in the V.A. system.”
The legislation would ensure that registered nurses in the V.A. can negotiate, file grievances, and pursue arbitration over issues relating to direct patient care, and would give RNs the same rights as other clinicians in the V.A. Currently, management can leave V.A RNs without a resolution to disputes that hurt patient care such as excessive mandatory overtime or assignment of a nurse to a new hospital unit without adequate training. Other federal agencies, like the Defense Department, already guarantee collective bargaining rights for their nurses.
“The veterans that have put their lives and health on the line for our country deserve the highest quality of care,” said Irma Westmoreland, RN, NNU’s chair of Veteran Affairs. “Registered nurses at the V.A. are dedicated to caring for our nation’s veterans – we see the health impacts of their service to our country every day.
“But we need a restoration of our full collective bargaining rights to best advocate for our patients and for the V.A. to be able to adequately recruit and retain skilled professionals,” she continued. “Once enacted, the V.A. Employee Fairness Act would do just that.”