Press Release

Unionized registered nurses to hold National Day of Action

Group of nurses inside hospital hold signs "Staff up for safe patient care"

RNs say “Enough is enough,” demand hospitals put patient safety first

Thousands of registered nurse members of National Nurses United (NNU) will hold a national day of action on Tuesday, June 13, to demand that their employers address the current nationwide staffing crisis by ensuring there is safe staffing on all units at all times and that nurses have the resources they need to care for their patients, announced NNU.

“We are saying, ‘Enough is enough’ to our employers who push us to our breaking point with chronic short-staffing and insufficient resources to provide the highest quality of care to our patients,” said Deborah Burger, RN, a president of NNU. “We are tired of the hospital industry’s excuses. We know there are enough nurses to meet the demand, there is just a lack of will on the part of the hospital industry to staff appropriately because they prioritize profits over patient care. We are very clear that our number-one focus must be to provide the highest quality of care to each and every patient.”

With nearly 225,000 members, NNU is the country’s largest union and professional association of RNs and the leading voice in the fight to pass federal legislation to establish safe staffing and nurse-to-patient ratio standards. 

At the height of the pandemic, the hospital industry was unable and unwilling to make necessary changes to address the needs of our patients. Instead of hiring adequate numbers of nurses, they pushed for crisis standards, which led to even more dangerous working conditions and poorer patient outcomes. Nurses have made it clear that intentionally low RN staffing, inadequate occupational health and safety protections, insufficient stock of critical medical supplies including personal protective equipment, and an increase in workplace violence (which is linked to understaffing) are all factors causing nurses to leave the bedside. Nurses are determined to see hospitals correct these persistent problems in order to provide better care to their patients and keep more of their colleagues at the bedside.

When RNs are forced to care for too many patients at one time, patients are at higher risk of preventable medical errors, avoidable complications, falls and injuries, pressure ulcers, increased length of hospital stay, higher numbers of hospital readmissions, and death

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 gold standard and inspired similar efforts in other states. 

Currently, Maine lawmakers are set to consider the Maine Quality Care Act which will set enforceable nurse-to-patient ratios in Maine’s hospitals. Maine nurses have shared testimonials on how patient care suffers when they are understaffed.

Research shows that better nurse-to-patient ratios reduce patient mortality. A 2021 study by  Linda Aiken, a preeminent nursing researcher at University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, 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.

Systemic short-staffing of RNs by the hospital industry is a decades-long, nationwide problem and has reached new heights during the Covid pandemic, which hospitals have used as an excuse to not staff safely. New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), an NNU affiliate, held a successful three-day strike last year, with nurses at Mount Sinai and Montefiore hospitals, mainly over this issue. 

“Chronic, intentional short-staffing was the key issue over which we New York City nurses decided to go out on strike,” said Nancy Hagans, RN, NYSNA president, and a president of NNU. “It is unacceptable and we were united in showing management we will not tolerate these practices that put our patients and ourselves at risk.”

Also last year, 15,000 members of Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA), another affiliate of NNU, participated in the largest private-sector strike in nursing history also over short-staffing, ultimately winning contracts that will give nurses a say in how staffing levels are set for the benefit of nurses and their patients.

“All the studies are clear: Appropriate staffing of nurses equals better outcomes for our patients,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN, and a president of NNU. “As nurses who provide hands-on care, we are deeply concerned about the industry's push towards technology and AI, which executives hope will replace nurses with algorithms or ‘virtual’ care. We know these schemes are designed to enhance profits for the few, but mean a deterioration in care for the many. We know there are enough nurses in the U.S. to staff our hospitals appropriately.”

NNU believes there are enough nurses to meet the needs of their patients. Data proves that the so-called “nursing shortage” is a myth. In fact, the hospital industry created the current staffing crisis through its own bad practices of routinely short-staffing units and driving away nurses who refuse to tolerate the moral distress and moral injury suffered from working in untenable, unconscionable, and unsafe work environments.

The statistics tell the story: There are more than one million registered nurses with active licenses who were not employed as RNs. According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data on RN employment, there are 3,072,700 registered nurses employed in the United States. In comparison, there are 4,604,199 actively licensed RNs, according to May 2023 data from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

“We see nurses leave the bedside because the conditions are so unsafe — unsafe for the nurses and unsafe for their patients,” said Jean Ross, RN and a president of NNU. “As nurses, we are committed and dedicated to providing the highest quality of care. That is what we have devoted our lives to doing professionally. When we cannot provide the care we know our patients deserve, we suffer both moral distress and moral injury. We must hold the hospitals accountable and say enough is enough.”

National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with nearly 225,000 members nationwide. NNU affiliates include California Nurses Association, DC Nurses Association, Michigan Nurses Association, Minnesota Nurses Association, National Nurses Organizing Committee, and New York State Nurses Association.