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Fighting to put patients before profits

New York Teacher
Anne Goldman VP for Non–DOE Members

Anne Goldman
VP for Non-DOE Members

A career as a health care professional in today’s workplace comes with immense challenges but can be a rewarding professional experience. To achieve success as a nurse, you must be proficient in clinical practice issues, compassionate, and focused yet flexible. And without a doubt, you need a strong union to support you.

Daily battles over supplies, staffing levels, workplace safety, ongoing appropriate education about practice issues and orientation for new staff members are just a few of the issues that nurses must navigate to offer quality care to every patient.

If quality patient care is our priority as a society, the health care system must be run and supported by health care professionals — not accountants or technocrats whose primary goal is to make a profit.

We cannot succeed with hospital administrators who posit scenarios that are unrealistic and set goals that cannot be safely achieved without sacrificing the quality of care.

For instance, discharging patients by noon — a favorite goal of administrators — can only happen safely if the patient is able to take the next steps for healthand healing. Does the patient have access to the necessary medication? Has the patient demonstrated the ability to independently manage care tasks such as applying dressings? The hospital staff also has to be sure the patient has a plan for transportation home and someone there to support them. Language and culture as well as economic, religious and other factors are all a part of the challenge when discharging a patient.

What happens when all of this preparatory work cannot be done on schedule? The patient is often placed somewhere other than the bed they occupied, and they are held and continue to be cared for by the nursing staff while the discharge issues are resolved. This outcome increases the number of patients for the nursing staff and endangers the nurse-to-patient ratios needed to safely care for each patient.

This is just one example of the ill-advised practices that hospitals use to keep patient turnover quick and beds full.

Remember: Nurse-to-patient ratios are formulas constructed by medical professionals based on patient care needs. Patient care and safety are why we continue our battle for correct staffing.

Thanks to our union contract, the UFT’s grievance team and our Federation of Nurses/UFT members, we have begun to win the battle on staffing through arbitration. Independent arbitrators have found that we, the union, are correct, and these staffing violations have resulted in economic penalties to the employer. These arbitration awards are a victory for union confidence and for our members, but more must be done.

To achieve a therapeutic work environment, nurses must have a voice in the workplace, an enforceable process for addressing short-staffing and a workforce committed to winning these important battles.

For all these reasons, the Federation of Nurses/UFT challenges employers that are committed to making a profit at the expense of providing quality care to each patient we serve.

We will expose these deficiencies in health care and continue to advocate for our patients and our profession.