Nurses celebrate their day by protesting in Washington

WASHINGTON – Registered nurses marked International Nurses’ Day with two actions in the District of Columbia aimed at protecting patients and careg

First, nurses rallied outside the John A. Wilson Building this morning to urge the District of Columbia Council to pass legislation to protect patients by mandating minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in all DC hospitals. 

“Hospitals everywhere are facing a crisis in inadequate patient care because the wealthy corporations that own the hospitals are cutting corners by understaffing registered nurses. That means substandard patient care and increased health risks for patients,” said National Nurses United (NNU) Co-President Jean Ross, RN. “Minimum, mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios have been the law in California for years, and they have improved patient care outcomes dramatically. Studies have shown that the California ratios are saving lives, cutting unnecessary readmissions and also reducing costs. That’s why we must bring safe patient staffing ratios to every state in the nation, including right here in DC.”

“We are here today to celebrate international nurses’ day. But more importantly, we’re here to take action as nurses to make our values as nurses a reality-values of caring, compassion, and community,” said Touko Leuga, a registered nurse in the medical/surgical unit at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, the largest hospital in DC. “It’s time for the DC Council to step up by moving forward on the Patient Protection Act. The health of our patients depends on it.”

Later, nurses demonstrated outside the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and delivered a petition signed by thousands of RNs at VA facilities around the country to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald, demanding respect for nurses’ rights in VA hospitals across the country.

“As we speak, management continues to harass, threaten and intimidate RN’s who speak up on behalf of veterans. RNs will always advocate on behalf of our nation’s heroes to provide them the best possible care,” said Irma Westmoreland, RN, chair of Veterans Affairs for National Nurses United. “The VA is spending half billion dollars to track RN’s, but doesn’t have enough money to meet its own staffing guidelines for both inpatient and outpatient veterans. VA RNs say, spend that half-billion dollars to properly staff hospitals and provide better access for veterans!”

The registered nurses also spoke out in support of a bill introduced in Congress to improve patient care for veterans, ensure equity among federal health care workers, and enable the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to recruit and retain a strong health care work force to serve the nation’s veterans. The bills (S. 1257 and H.R. 2193), introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), would restore full collective bargaining rights to registered nurses and other clinicians employed by the Veterans Administration.

“Nurses across the country thank Sen. Brown and Rep. Takano for standing up for quality health care for our nation’s veterans by allowing VA RNs to exercise their rights to advocate for their patients,” said Karen Higgins, RN, co-President of National Nurses United.

After the action, nurses are heading to Capitol Hill to lobby Congress in support of legislation to mandate minimum nurse-to-patient ratios across the country and for full collective bargaining rights for nurses employed at the Veterans Administration.

These events are part of a global week of action organized by Global Nurses United and its U.S. affiliate, National Nurses United. NNU, the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States, represents 185,000 RNs across the country, including 4,400 in DC and more than 10,000 at 23 VA medical centers.

Global Nurses United is the only international trade union organization devoted exclusively to representing nurses and unites 20 nurses’ unions in 18 countries, including the U.S. Nurses unions around the world are taking action during international nurses’ week, May 6-12. May 12, international nurses’ day, marks the birthday of Florence Nightingale. 

Photo: National Nurses United.



Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.