News & Events

New National Nurses Organization Takes Shape. Leader of 70,000 RNs Will Press for Staffing, Health Care Reform

Mass. Nurses Association is Member of New Group known as: American Association of Registered Nurses

Leaders of organizations representing some 70,000 Registered Nurses and other allied professionals this week took a major step forward in creating new national nurses’ organization. Meeting in San Diego, the group adopted a name -the American Association of Registered Nurses (AARN) – targeted
several priorities for legislative and workplace changes, and hired a national advocate to press for legislative gains in Congress.

Participants in the AARN include the California Nurses Association, Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), Maine State Nurses Association (MSNA), Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, and United Health Care Workers of Missouri. Additional nurses groups from New York and Arizona were informal participants in the San Diego meeting.

Together the groups include several of the largest and leading nurse and patient advocacy organizations in the U.S.

"AARN was created by and for direct care RNs," said CAN President Kay McVay, RN, "to address the issues facing patients and their families – safe RN-to-patient staffing being the primary concern."

"Nurses in this country need a voice for those fighting on the front lines, a voice that is not afraid to take on the health care industry as it continues to promote policies and practices that endanger patients and harm nurses," said MNA President Karen Higgins, RN.

AARN members will work together on a series of national projects as well as assisting each other in state legislative, collective bargaining, and organizing campaigns to improve registered nurse staffing conditions and to promote the health and safety of nurses. On the national scene, the member groups have already sponsored a federal bill to prohibit the dangerous practice of mandatory overtime in hospitals, and hired a Washington-based public interest advocate to promote national legislation.

Additionally, the organizations held an organizing institute in California last year to help train nurse activists on union representation campaigns. A second organizing institute will be held later this year in Philadelphia.

"AARN will be the voice in America for bedside nurses to bring their issues to the forefront," noted PASNAP President Teri Evans, RN. "Improvement for our patients is essential."

"Nurses have long needed a strong voice to protect our practice and our ability to give safe patient care. That voice is the AARN," added Nancy Ford, RN, of the MSNA.

On a state to state level, the groups are already working together.

Nurses from all the member groups attended a massive rally in California last September in support of implementation of California’s groundbreaking law establishing minimum nurse-to-patient ratios. The ratios, announced by Governor Gray Davis last week, are the first in the nation, and widely seen as a cure for the nursing shortage and eroding patient care conditions.

The ratios are required by a CNA sponsored law. Other states are also hoping to use those ratios as a model for safe staffing in their states. The MNA has cited the California law as an inspiration for similar legislation it is pursuing in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts, like California, has faced dramatic changes in health care delivery with the advent of managed care and deregulation. After a decade of health care industry decisions to eliminate nurses, or to replace nurses with lesser qualified, unlicensed personnel, nurses have left the bedside by the thousands because they were no longer able to deliver appropriate care under the repressive conditions created by the industry. In Massachusetts, with the highest number of nurses per capita in the country, the state finds itself in a major nursing shortage with vacancies unfilled for months in spite of industry attempts to woo nurses with large bonuses.

"Without the commitment to a safe nurse to patient ratio, nurses are unwilling to put their professional practice license and their patients’ safety on the line. With California’s new law as a model, we hope to convince our legislature to adopt our own measure in the Commonwealth as the best means of addressing our nursing shortage, as well as to protect patients," Higgins explained.

AARN members have also worked with the UHCW on a representation campaign currently underway in St. Louis. Several of the states are working on state legislation, similar to the national bill, to prohibit the dangerous practice of mandatory overtime. The member groups are also cooperating on promoting efforts, such as is currently underway in Maine, to adopt a universal health coverage system.

The groups will also work together in patient advocacy forums. In San Diego, the AARN formally endorsed Stop Patient Abuse Now, a national coalition started by the Gray Panthers that challenges pharmaceutical price gouging.