As seven thousand nurses return to work at two of New York’s busiest hospitals after a 3-day strike, coworkers across the country predict that frontline workers at other hospitals will eventually go on strike.
Nationwide, hospitals are facing increasing difficulties as they struggle to address the widespread shortage of staff, exhausted nurses who the pandemic has worn down, and a depleted pool of new nursing professionals.
“There’s no place that’s immune from what’s happening with the nursing shortage,” said Michelle Collins, dean at the college of nursing and health at Loyola University New Orleans.
According to the Union leaders, the tentative agreement on the contract ending the strike by nurses at Mount Sinai Hospital and Montefiore Medical Center, both non-profit, privately-owned hospitals with over a thousand beds in New York City, will alleviate persistent understaffing and increase pay by nineteen over three years.
The strike, which ended recently, was yet another conflict between nurses and their employers.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, last year, six unions representing thirty-two thousand nurses initiated strikes at various hospital systems across the country. These strikes accounted for approximately twenty-five percent of all significant strikes in the US in the previous year, which marked an increase from the prior year.
The President of the American Nurses Association, Dr. Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, stated that the overwhelming workload faced by nurses, who are frequently unable to take breaks due to being assigned excessive numbers of patients, some of whom urgently require their attention, may lead some nurses to believe that striking is their only option.
According to former nurse and current state union employee Peter Sidhu, nurse unions at two hospitals in California are expected to go on strike this year when their contract expires.
Sidhu, who deals with concerns raised by nurses throughout the state regarding excessive workloads, has received seven thousand such complaints from Los Angeles County hospitals since December. He stated that the number of objections has at least doubled since before the start of the pandemic.
“What I’ve seen is that in areas where we’ve traditionally had good staffing, even they are getting bombarded with patients and a lack of resources,” Sidhu said.
Even before the pandemic, hospitals were already struggling with a shortage of nurses, with clear indications of a crisis on the horizon as a significant portion of the workforce was approaching retirement age.