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Nurses Poised For Action Across Country This Week

Registered nurse members of California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) will hold actions across the country on Thursday, Jan. 13 to draw attention to a number of concerns. They plan to demand the hospital industry invest in safe staffing, to demand that nurses receive optimal protections at work, and to condemn the decision by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to let asymptomatic health care workers who test positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus and are asymptomatic return to work immediately without isolation or testing.

Nurses emphasize that nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States is not experiencing a “nursing shortage” – only a shortage of nurses willing to risk their licenses or the safety of their patients by working under the unsafe conditions imposed on them by profit-driven employers. According to nurses, employers are also seeking to make the crisis standards of care and crisis staffing levels the “new normal,” a major threat to patients across the country.

“Everyone will need medical care at some point in their lives, and when our loved ones are in the hospital, we want nurses to be able to deliver the focused care that patients deserve,” said NNU President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN. “But employers have prioritized profits over safe patient care. They have cut corners on safe staffing since long before COVID, and with the pandemic still in full swing, they are driving desperately needed nurses away from the profession. On Jan. 13, we are standing up to say, ‘Enough!’ to employer greed and to demand safe staffing now.”

Local actions are scheduled to take place at the following locations on Jan. 13: Doctors Hospital of Manteca, 1205 E. North St., Manteca, 6 a.m. to 6:45 a.m.; Doctors Medical Center, 1441 Florida Ave., Modesto, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.; and Sutter Tracy Community Hospital, 1420 N. Tracy Blvd., Tracy, 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., where a car caravan will start and end at the hospital.

To capture a fuller picture of the current staffing crisis, NNU conducted a survey of thousands of registered nurses across the country from October to December, 2021. Of the nurses who responded, 82.5 percent said at least half of their shifts were unsafely staffed. Studies have shown that when nurses are assigned too many patients to safely care for at once, the patients are at an increased risk for preventable medical errors, avoidable complications, increased length of stay, readmissions, and even death. Studies have also shown that assigning nurses too many patients to safely care for at once also leads to ongoing moral distress and job dissatisfaction. In NNU’s recent survey, 68 percent of respondents said that they have considered leaving their position.

RNs say nurses would stop leaving the profession if hospitals immediately improved working conditions by increasing staffing levels and followed nurses’ advice to grow the pool of available nurses. According to nurses, hospitals must actively hire permanent staff nurses and consider a wider range of educational qualifications; stop canceling nurses; and properly crosstrain current staff nurses so that they are competent to work in other departments, especially critical care.

“The answer to nurses unwilling to work in unsafe conditions is never to overload the remaining nurses with more patients and, in states where it is not prohibited, force them to work mandatory overtime,” said Triunfo-Cortez. “The solution we can start implementing today is for hospitals to immediately staff up every unit, every shift, and create a safe, sustainable work environment where nurses can feel confident about their ability to provide the best nursing care possible for their patients.”

National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union of registered nurses in the United States with more than 175,000 members nationwide.