On October 12, 2023, HPAE hosted its first in-person Professional Issues Conference (PIC) in four years. More than 130 participants gathered in North Brunswick for Code Red: From Crisis to Action to hear from experts providing insight on how healthcare workers are advocating for safe staffing levels in our workplaces.
Kelly Nedrow, AFT Senior Director for Health Issues, brought home to conference attendees in her keynote address titled, CODE RED: Addressing the Extinction of Healthcare Workers, the sobering reality that the healthcare workforce is facing. If current trends continue, more than 6.5 million healthcare workers in the US will leave the profession by 2026 while only 1.9 million new healthcare workers will enter the workforce. Kelly further reflected on the serious mental health issues that can result from the stresses of short staffing, resulting in a very high percentage of nurses contemplating leaving the bedside altogether. Although this provides a bleak current reality, there is definite momentum with AFT helping to introduce nine safe staffing state bills across the country in 2023 (OR, MT, OR, WA, NM, OH, WI, CT, AK), and three of these nine states have safe staffing bills that are now law (OR, WA, CT)!
After the keynote address, we had a plenary session titled, Turning the Tide: Concrete Examples of Successful Workplace Improvements, in which three union leaders (Anne Tan Piazza from the Oregon Nurses Association, John Brady from AFT Connecticut, and Maureen May from the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals) talked about their methods and victories as unions leading the way pushing for the passage of safe staffing legislation in their respective states. All three reflected on the importance of: having enforceable standards (such as monetary penalties or arbitration for non-compliance), getting the necessary support in the legislature and through the formation of safe staffing coalitions, ensuring that you have decision-making safe staffing committees, and negotiating innovatively so that you can compromise without losing key points in safe staffing bills.
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We are not across the finish line yet in achieving the passage of safe staffing legislation in New Jersey, but we have more support than we have ever had and are closer than we have ever been! It is imperative that we continue to fight for safe staffing, whether that be through state legislation or through our HPAE local union contracts.
In wanting to make safe staffing a reality in New Jersey and in our workplace, you have an opportunity to join a foundational HPAE training on Wednesday, December 13, 2023, called Empowering Colleagues to Achieve Workplace Improvements. You can even earn up to 6.0 contact hours for attending. To find out more details and to register, click here . You won’t want to miss it!