Federation of Nurses/UFT members celebrated in person on May 17 for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, honoring their work and their profession as they recognized 20 nurses for their advocacy, leadership and service.
UFT Vice President Anne Goldman, the head of the Federation of Nurses/UFT, called her peers heroes for “marching through fear, through uncertainty” and “facing more mortality and death than we ever imagined” as the world entered the dark days of the pandemic.
Attendees paused to recognize colleagues lost to COVID-19.
The Nurse Recognition Day Celebration took place in Shanker Hall at UFT headquarters during National Nurses Month.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who thanked members in a video message, said everyone knew the pandemic praise for nurses would be short-lived and negotiations would be difficult, but NYU Langone Hospital–Brooklyn, Staten Island University Hospital South and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) all reached solid contracts in 2021.
“Tonight is an evening for all of us to recognize your phenomenal work as great health care professionals as well as being some of the best unionists I’ve ever, ever seen in my life,” he said.
Honorees talked about the need for members to be active in the union; the importance of recruitment, mentoring and retention; and their passion for the nursing profession, despite pandemic hardships. Several applauded the UFT for providing personal protective equipment when their employers fell short. Many thanked the UFT negotiation team.
“My call to action today is to ask nurses, ask your friends to please come on board and join the UFT and help us fight for your rights as nurses and for the rights of your patients,” said Angela Maloney, VNSNY Homecare Nurse of the Year.
Suzan Rimawi, an NYU Langone ER charge nurse who received an RN Advocate Award, said many nurses suffered from burnout during the pandemic, and institutional support was lacking. She got more involved and helped negotiate the latest contract. One hard-won victory was a night-shift nurse educator to assist inexperienced hires. “We didn’t want them to fail” and leave the profession, Rimawi said.
Janet Miller, who won the SIUH South Humanitarian Award, said patient suffering during the pandemic helped put in perspective just what nursing means.
“Being a humanitarian is putting ourselves aside and putting the patients first, and caring is not something that can be taught,” she said. “This is that innate fire, that passion, which drives us all to see the nursing profession not just as a job but as our focus in life.”