News & Events

MNA nurses join 1,000 more at NNU Staff Nurse Assembly in D.C.

Call on congress to “act now” on patient safety

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
June 2010 Edition

Sheila Ainsworth, Betsy Prescott and Edgar Chen marching to the Capitol.

Nearly 1,000 NNU nurses from across the country, including more than 100 from Massachusetts, rallied in Washington D.C. last month to advocate for patient safety reforms, as well as for national patient-care and nursing standards. The event, which coincided with National Nurses Week, also provided members with an opportunity to build on the NNU’s ever-expanding network of unified RNs.

Katie Murphy after winning a trip to Hawaii.

The three-day event included a “solidarity march,” a rally and professional conference. RNs also visited nearly 100 members of Congress, where they prodded legislators to work on the unfinished business of healthcare reform as well as legislative initiatives specific to patient safety.

“We are the voice of nurses across the country,” said NNU co-president and Massachusetts RN Karen Higgins, “as well as the voice of patients. When we leave D.C. [tomorrow] I want everyone to remember that when it comes to making decisions about health care and patients we need to say, ‘Leave it to the experts.’ And then we need to add in that WE are the experts!”

Jacqueline Fitts at the march.

The key legislative initiatives that RNs focused on during the D.C. visit were S1031/ HR2273 and S1788/HR2381 (go here for details).

S1031/HR2273, which is modeled after a successful California law, would establish a limit on the number of patients a nurse can be forced to care for at once. S1788/HR2381 would promote nurse retention and reduce patient accidents/injuries by establishing safe patient lifting and handling policies.

Key legislators who supported the NNU nurses during their time in Washington included Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, Rep. Lynn Woolsey of California, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Sen. Barbara Boxer of California.

The participating RNs also unanimously endorsed a resolution to establish national collective bargaining standards while they were in Washington. The resolution comes at a time when there have been growing attacks by many hospital employers against nurses—a dangerous pattern of behavior that not only hurts nurses, but that also negatively affects patient safety conditions.

The resolution notes that the NNU will oppose “concessionary agreements that are injurious to our patients, our members and our profession that undermine all represented RN contract standards.” This would include reductions in health coverage, pensions and other retirement securities, two-tier programs for new hires, and reductions that impair patient safety.

Additionally, the resolution pledges NNU to fight for enhanced RN staffing and other improvements in patient care standards, limits on the introduction of new technology that displaces RNs or RN’s professional judgment, and additional workplace safety measures.

“It was wonderful to be with all of these nurses and to meet nurses from all over the country,” said Susanna Damma, an RN at Tufts Medical Center. “This event has helped me realize that the problems we are having locally are shared by RNs all over and that we all need to work together to solve them. This event brings us one step closer to finding those solutions.”