As we celebrate National Nurses’ and Hospital Workers’ Week this month and the critical roles we play, we also recognize the 193rd birthday of Florence Nightingale.

Florence, the mother of modern nursing, was called the ‘lady with the lamp’ for her late night rounds among patients. While today’s rounds might not warrant a lamp, they do require an endless checklist of patient needs, often dictated by business priorities instead of the actual needs of our patients.

As our fight to keep patients safe moves from the legislature this year, we refocus our efforts to hold hospitals accountable. We must strengthen our staffing committees and use community education to improve patient safety. And we wonder, what would Florence do if she were here?

Florence Nightingale believed that advocacy for patients was at the core of our mission as nurses and healthcare workers. In fact, during the Crimean war Florence advocated for better care for patients who were often treated by overworked medical staff, while also facing unhygienic conditions and a lack of medical supplies.

I believe if Florence were here to celebrate her 193rd birthday, she would have been pleased that hundreds of us have continued that message of patient advocacy with our work in Olympia to advocate for patients and to lobby legislators to pass our patient safety reform bills. Thousands signed the petition to pass our bills and we flooded legislators with phone calls and emails. We had lots of necessary conversations and got two-thirds of the way there, but in the end we were blocked by legislators who mistakenly aligned with hospital employers instead of patient needs.

She would have also been disappointed, just as we were, that not enough legislators supported our bills to pass them into law. But she would tell us that we can’t stop here. I  think she would agree that we should work to unseat candidates who choose CEO interests before patients’ needs and elect more lawmakers who put patients before profits – especially in the state Senate.

As we ask what Florence would do if she was here, the answer is clear: she’d be side-by-side with us fighting for our patients.

This month as we recognize the important work we all do, let’s look ahead and continue our campaign for patient safety. Whether we make gains during bargaining, strengthen our hospitals’ staffing committees or bring our message to the public, we continue the work of Florence Nightingale through our vigorous advocacy.

May 7th, 2013

Posted In: Nurse Alliance

SEIU Healthcare 1199NW

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