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Though NYC nurses reached deal, issues persist in hospitals nationwide

The New York City nurses strike highlighted staffing and working conditions issues in hospitals across the country.
Posted at 6:25 PM, Jan 13, 2023

The frustration for New York City nurses this week reached a boiling point.

After four days and 7,000 nurses on strike, the New York State Nurses Association reached a deal with two city hospitals that included safe staffing ratios, health care benefits and salary increases.

"What this strike has shown is that when we fight, we win," said Nancy Hagans, president of the New York State Nurses Association. "Yesterday on the picket line, we were chanting 'One day longer, one day stronger.' Today we are saying when we fight, we win."

The nurses in New York aren't the only ones who are burnt out and frustrated with their hospitals.

In 2022 alone, there were roughly two dozen strikes, most only lasting a few days. In September in Minnesota, about 15,000 nurses walked out of their hospitals. More than 21,000 did the same in November in northern California.

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"They are very torn emotionally when they go on strike because they don't want to walk out of their facility," said Terry Foster, emergency room nurse and president of the Emergency Nurses Association.

Foster says many times nurses do not feel heard about staffing levels where the nurse-to-patient ratio is far beyond what it's supposed to be, making their job more stressful and more dangerous.

"It's been proven that when you have more nurses on staff, complication rates are much slower, patient deterioration, things like that," Foster said. "I would say that right now the frustration level among many nurses is at an all time high, and not just because of COVID."

Many are stepping away from their jobs. A recent poll says a majority would leave their job within three years and more than a third would leave within a year.

Hospitals continue to struggle financially, with many in the red in 2022. A report by Kaufman Hall also says labor expenses per patient rose nearly 40% in the last three years.

While strikes overall are relatively rare, Foster hopes things get better this year so that nurses can work hospital halls instead of picket lines.