In a show of escalating resistance to repealing the Affordable Care Act, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW nurses, President Diane Sosne RN, and Tacoma minister Pastor Gregory Christopher joined with workers from across the country to flood Capitol Hill Tuesday to protest efforts to dismantle the ACA and to demand to hear their representatives’ plan to keep millions of American families covered. The group of local activists, faith leaders, nurses and home care workers directly confronted their Senators who are at the forefront of the repeal. These senators include: Toomey (R-PA), Blunt (R-MO), Hatch (R-UT), Heller (R-NV), and Daines (R-MT).
Earlier in the day, as constituents confronted Republican legislators, protests erupted outside of the Senate Finance Committee’s vote to confirm Thomas Price to be Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Price has been a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act and has written legislation that would repeal most of the sections of Obamacare and shift toward what Republicans call a “market-based” approach.
Holding signs that asked “What’s your plan for us?” protestors disrupted hallways, cafeterias, and member offices, including Sens. Blunt, Hatch, Toomey, Daines, and Heller. Participants demanded to speak to their representatives to tell them the real-life toll a repeal of the law would have on their lives and to hear their plan to keep their families covered. When senators like Toomey refused to meet with their constituents, faith leaders like Father Regis Ryan offered prayer over their offices to ask them to dig deep in their souls and make the right decision.
“Over the past 40 years, I’ve worked to provide access to health care to the poor—and I know that repealing the Affordable Care Act is a matter of life-or-death,” said Father Regis Ryan, the Executive Director of STO-ROX Neighborhood Health Council near Pittsburgh.
“As a pastor, my aim is to reach out to all humans—to feed the hungry, house the homeless, cheer the fallen, and care for the sick. I would hope Sen. Toomey and his colleagues in Congress feel this responsibility to their constituents too.”
The protests culminated in a final show of disruption outside of Sen. Orrin Hatch’s office, where protesters blocked the hallway demanding to hear his plans to keep American families covered. Shouting “What’s the plan for health care? What’s the plan for us?” nearly 50 protesters including SEIU Healthcare 1199NW nurses and President Diane Sosne, RN were arrested and escorted out of the building.
“I see real fear in the faces of my patients when they talk about losing their healthcare coverage and the unknown of what’s next. And as a nurse, I have as much fear as they do,” said Vanessa Patricelli, RN.” We cannot afford to go back to the days when patients delay seeking treatment for a serious condition until it’s too difficult to treat, or in some cases, too late to treat at all.”
Frustration is growing in all corners of the country as plans to dismantle the ACA move forward.
Despite recent polling showing that the majority of Americans overwhelmingly support the Affordable Care Act, plans to repeal the law, which would leave an estimated 30 million people without access to health care—including prescriptions and treatments for chronic conditions.
Without a replacement plan, experts report than at estimated 43,000 people could die annually.
The Medicaid Expansion benefits some of our most vulnerable populations in states across the country. Four out of every 10 Medicaid dollars are spent on care for people with disabilities and one-quarter of the program’s funding is used for seniors.
Nursing skills at the baccalaureate level are in high demand. Nurses who have completed the journey to a BSN share their experience and offer helpful advice.
Members at SEIU Healthcare 1199NW Multi-Employer Training Fund facilities can get tuition assistance toward earning a BSN – learn more here.
SEIU members receive a discount at Western Governors University’s nursing school, which also offers a BSN program. Learn more here.
We know that our patients need our care, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. That’s why the state legislature enacted a new law in 2016 requiring 6 hours of training for every licensed RN, LPN, and ARNP on suicide prevention.
The law requires a one-time training course (at least six hours in length) in suicide assessment, treatment, and management. The law requires the Washington State Department of Health to adopt rules establishing the minimum standards for the training programs by June 30, 2016, and to approve training programs beginning January 1, 2017. For now, nurses need not act. Once the training program has been established, likely in 2017, all nurses will need to take a 6-hour course.
For more information, check out the full article on the Department of Health’s website: Suicide Prevention Training.
Grace Yang, RN, Harborview, was recently appointed to a two-year term as Secretary-Treasurer on the board for the Washington Center for Nursing (WCN), a coalition of nursing organizations including our union, nursing executives, staff nurses, and nursing educators. SEIU Healthcare 1199NW President Diane Sosne, RN, MN also serves on the WCN Board.
The Washington Center for Nursing was created during the Nursing Summit in 2001. The WCN has worked on variety of nursing projects, including the Master Plan for Nursing Education and the organization of regional stakeholder meetings on the Nurse of the Future. Diversity and inclusion, nursing education, and addressing the nursing shortage are current focuses for the Board.
With an aging population, aging caregiver workforce, and about 300,000 additional individuals who are eligible for care under healthcare reform, Washington’s nursing shortage is expected to worsen. Board members including Grace are working to address the nursing shortage by diversifying our workforce, mentoring new nurses, and engaging younger students to consider nursing careers.
“Right now the average age of a nurse in Washington is 48, so increasing our pool of nurses is a huge need that the Center is working to address,” Grace said. “We also work on data collection and watch the shift in our workforce, which puts the pressure on all of us to feed the supply of nurses we need.”
Grace notes that in addressing the workplace shortage we must pay attention to needs on the full spectrum of nursing, from finding the right nursing educators to assessing challenges for new nurses.
“One of our biggest bottlenecks is finding qualified people to teach nurses, especially when teaching pay isn’t as much as remaining in frontline care. It can be up to a 50% pay cut. We have so many nursing student applicants, more than can be accepted. You have to ask, where are we putting our priorities? We need to look long term with education and help resolve that access problem. SEIU’s multi-employer training fund helps address this issue and meet students where their challenges are, creating a pipeline in our hospitals for the existing workforce to move up.”
WCN also works on mentoring new nurses and engaging younger students.
“We need to attract diverse nurses to the field and address their specific challenges, whether it’s funding, balance with family, access to education. Our online mentorship program for new nurses of color helps meet the needs of new nurses by determining what to prioritize. It’s easy to be overwhelmed with the tasks of nursing and we help mentor to look at the bigger picture,” said Grace.
The WCN mentoring program aims to engage a more diverse workforce by addressing nursing challenges early in careers, like answering questions about being a student nurse, listening to stressors and successes of clinical or work experience, providing advice about balancing responsibilities between home and work, advising on the job search process, and giving tips on job interviews.
Advancing our nursing profession also needs to include our current workforce, who often bring decades of experience and community connections.
Grace and the WCN Board engage nurses to seek leadership positions in our communities, whether on business boards, school boards, councils, and advisory panels.
“Nurses are trusted. When we advocate for something it’s for a good reason. If we’re saying there aren’t enough nurses for the future of our state or our patients aren’t getting the care they need, then people listen. But if nurses aren’t at the meetings or on the Boards someone else will be making the decisions, whether it’s big pharmacy, big insurance, doctors or physicians. That’s why it’s so important for our profession to step up and be leaders. That’s a key goal for both WCN and SEIU, to have a voice in every step of our community and elected processes so we have frontline experts making decisions locally, at the state, and at federal levels,” Grace said.
In addition to her work on the WCN Board, Grace has been using her voice as a member of our union and Executive Board to make a difference in the nursing profession and healthcare for nearly fifteen years.
“As nurses our work is caring for patients, but we also must care for those who care. I tell other nurses why I became active – I wanted to know what our union did, what WCN was all about. I wanted to be part of the decision making and have the most information on what I can do to make my nursing profession, my workplace, my patient care environment better. We see things that aren’t right. We’re working short. I can’t provide the care I was taught to provide. So how do we resolve that? That’s why I’m active in our union and WCN. We have a voice in our workplace and a role in changing our professions and speaking out for patients. It can start in small ways and move to big things.”
Healthcare Career Advancement Program (H-CAP) and SEIU to work with online university to provide BSN and MSN opportunities to members
Western Governors University (WGU), www.wgu.edu/hcap, Healthcare Career Advancement Program (H-CAP), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), have partnered to provide the union’s 85,000 nurses a new, more affordable means to earn advanced degrees. Under the terms of an agreement with the Healthcare Career Advancement Program (H-CAP), SEIU members will receive information regarding WGU’s accredited BSN and MSN degree programs as well as eligibility for a 5% discount for up to two years.
WGU offers online, CCNE-accredited bachelor’s and master’s degree programs for working nurses. These programs are ideal for RNs who wish to complete their bachelor’s degrees as well as those who wish to prepare to become advanced practice nurses or educators by earning a master’s degree. All online, WGU’s programs use an innovative, competency-based learning model. Designed for working adults with prior education and experience, competency-based learning allows students to move quickly through what they already know so they can focus on what they still need to learn.
“This partnership will support the career aspirations of nurses and ultimately equip nurses with deeper skills and expertise, whether at the bedside, in a clinic or health center, or within the home,” said Diane Sosne, RN, MN and President of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. “This opportunity is more important than ever as nurses strive to deliver the right care at the right time in the right setting for patients.”
In addition to their flexibility, WGU’s advanced nursing degree programs are very great value. With the H-CAP discount, tuition is approximately $6,200 per 12-month year. In addition, scholarships and federal financial aid are available to qualified students. Furthermore, nurses working for employers who participate in the SEIU Healthcare 1199NW Multi-Employer Training Fund may be eligible for additional tuition assistance and other assistance programs. Nurses at Harborview, Swedish, Valley Medical Center, Northwest, Group Health, or Highline should contact the Training Fund for more information. Nurses who work elsewhere should contact WGU directly.