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A nurse strike which involved Montefiore Medical Center (Bronx) and Mount Sinai Hospital (Manhattan) has ended on Thursday for two of New York City’s largest hospitals.
CBS News reports both hospitals announced that they’d reached tentative agreements with New York State Nurses Association. The union said so, as well, a short time later. It called the accords “historic.”
Both hospitals were postponing nonemergency surgeries, diverting ambulances to other medical centers, pulling in temporary staffers and assigning administrators with nursing backgrounds to work in wards in order to cope with the walkout of as many as 7,100 nurses.
The union had said it was forced into the drastic step of striking because of severe understaffing that left staff caring for too many patients.
Pandemic pressures may have changed nursing forever
In May 2022, Sigma’s Journal of Nursing Scholarship published a study, “Challenges faced by new nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In-depth interviews of 29 nurses found they expressed fear, weariness, exhaustion, isolation, and distress, observations echoed by studies from other countries.
Retention of new nurses in acute care settings has always been a concern. In the recent Current Population Survey, a 4% reduction in nurses under 35 years of age has been reported, potentially hinting at a future decline for decades to come.
To combat their own nursing shortage, Montefiore said early Thursday it had agreed to add more than 170 nurses.
After union victory, all NYC patients will be cared for
The union said early Thursday that nurses “won concrete enforceable safe staffing ratios in both deals and will be back on the job starting this morning.”
Union President Nancy Hagans, herself a registered nurse, said in a statement:
“This is a historic victory for New York City nurses and for nurses across the country. NYSNA nurses have done the impossible, saving lives night and day, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and now we’ve again shown that nothing is impossible for nurse heroes. Through our unity and by putting it all on the line, we won enforceable safe staffing ratios at both Montefiore and Mount Sinai where nurses went on strike for patient care.”
Montefiore and Mount Sinai were the last of a group of hospitals with nursing contracts that expired simultaneously. The union initially warned that it would strike at all of them at the same time, but the other hospitals reached agreements as a Monday strike deadline approached.
All include raises of 7%, 6%, and 5%, respectively, over the next three years, which is reportedly similar to the new deal for the two hospitals involved.
Mount Sinai’s administration has said the union’s focus on nurse-to-patient ratios “ignores the progress we have made to attract and hire more new nurses, despite a global shortage of healthcare workers that is impacting hospitals across the country.”
Black Maternal Health outcomes are often adversely effected by overwhelmed nurses
New data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that Black maternal mortality rose significantly during the pandemic — and that Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their White counterparts.
In the race-matched study, Dr. Kanika Harris stated, “Nurses in the study mentioned hospitals are rewarded when they have less staff on the floor.” So in turn care may not be readily available and to the attention of a patient’s needs because of reimbursement or bonus incentives to the in-charge nurse or maternity ward.
As a result, “you have a burnt-out staff that are trying to help multiple families and moms that are pregnant, and when you’re tired and burnt out you can’t necessarily process your everyday assumptions and feelings about race.”
To combat this public health crisis, the Black Women’s Health Imperative, in partnership with the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, released a new study on how racism towards Black patients and nurses during birth experiences affects patient outcomes.
They plan to use the study’s findings to inform a POST-BIRTH Warning Signs Program that will reduce maternal mortality across the board.