By Ella Marrufo
On Jan. 9, over 7,000 nurses at two New York City hospitals, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, went on strike after their union contract ended in late 2022. Those who went on strike at Montefiore demanded better wages and raised awareness about staffing issues, while those at Mount Sinai urged better care for themselves and their patients. Nurses at eight other hospitals in the city had a similar intent to strike, but were able to reach a compromise with their employers with a new contract.
Mount Sinai nurse Lorena Vivas told the New York Times, “We are not out here for wages, we are out here because we want patient safety.” After COVID-19’s catastrophic effect on hospitals’ operations, nurses have become increasingly distressed with poor patient care and overworking of staff members. Vivas noted that “the pandemic just blew the whole thing open.” Often, nurses take on jobs meant for two due to understaffing, leading to overwork, burnout, and sometimes inadequate care for patients. Johnaira Dilone-Florian, a nurse practitioner at Montefiore, described the situation, saying, “It’s unsafe because, in the emergency room, how can a nurse safely monitor 20 patients … Anything can go wrong.”
The issue, hospitals claim, is the national nursing shortage. Hospitals can only hire the few nurses available, and with COVID, the flu, and RSV going around, patients often severely outnumber the nurses. Rushing to combat this shortage, Mount Sinai and Montefiore hired anyone who could fit the nurse’s criteria, going so far as to beg doctors to take temporary spots. After Montefiore’s nurses walked out, the hospital released a statement saying, “We remain committed to seamless and compassionate care, recognizing that the union leadership’s decision will spark fear and uncertainty across our community.”
The nurses at Mount Sinai and Montefiore ended their strike on Jan. 12 after their respective hospitals agreed to a new contract. According to the New York State Nurses’ Association, the tentative contract granted nurses a 19 percent wage increase over the next three years, as well as over 170 new nursing opportunities. Despite this agreement and the end of the current strikes in New York City, the issue of understaffing and poor working environments for nurses has not been entirely resolved. There is a shortage of nurses for a reason: the job is simply no longer appealing and has recently developed a negative culture around the profession. According to a survey by ConnectRN, a community platform for nurses, over fifty percent of nurses are considering leaving the industry. Only when this core problem is resolved will nursing strikes across the country cease completely.
Sources: (N.Y. Times, AP News, The Guardian, CNN)
Leave a Reply