“The same way parents ask questions about class size, I want every patient to ask questions about the staffing ratio in hospitals,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said as he welcomed nurses to the Westin Grand Central in Manhattan on Nov. 22 for the 40th annual Professional Issues Conference of the Federation of Nurses/UFT.
The UFT has made safe staffing ratios one of its legislative priorities for 2020.
“Everyone wants to do health care on the cheap,” said Mulgrew. “We know bosses want to see the bottom line at the expense of nurses and patients. If they don’t fear us, they’ll hurt you.”
UFT Vice President Anne Goldman, who is the head of the Federation of Nurses/UFT, echoed that sentiment. “At the end of the day, our obligation is to patient advocacy, not to hospitals and institutions,” she said.
Goldman told the 250 nurses in attendance that they are on the front line of quality health care, and the Federation of Nurses/UFT enables them to advocate effectively on behalf of patients. “Without the voice and power of the union, we cannot succeed,” Goldman said. She encouraged veteran members to embrace new nurses and “help them understand why we need a union.”
“When we have solidarity and a voice,” she said, “we prevail.”
Mulgrew praised the federation for providing a successful blueprint for contract negotiations throughout the UFT. “Strategically this is our most successful unit in dealing with issues and overcoming obstacles,” Mulgrew said. “It’s important to let members know what we can accomplish at the negotiating table.”
The conference featured seven 105-minute workshops on topics such as acute kidney disease, monoarthritis and mindfulness-based interventions.
The Federation of Nurses/UFT in June became accredited by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation. That allows the union to provide contact hours for continuing education to member nurses, including at this year’s conference.
The nurses also heard a special presentation by Nicole Yearwood of the U.S. Census Bureau about the importance of counting every New Yorker in the 2020 Census. They learned how federal funding for health care, education, transportation and congressional representation is tied to Census data.
Marcia Waithe of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York attended the Nurse, Negligence and Malpractice workshop with veteran presenter Janine Fiesta, an independent health law consultant. “Janine always updates us on what’s happening,” said Waithe, who was interested in hearing how home care workers like herself are protected under the law.
Cynthia Bennett, a school nurse at IS 77 in Queens and the UFT chapter leader for school nurses, was impressed with the workshop on diabetes. “I liked what the presenter said about changing our language to refer to children with diabetes, instead of diabetic children,” Bennett said. “It stops stigmatizing children and puts a human face on them.”
Lorena Modesto-Valentin, a nurse at NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn, said the presentation by two former city police officers on response to workplace bullying and an active shooter was a good first step for an important conversation about bullying on the job. “It’s the opening of the conversation so our nurses are aware about what we shouldn’t accept,” she said.