NYSNA NY Presbyterian

LOSING STAFF, LOSING PATIENCE: The New York State Nurses Association held a rally Nov. 17 outside of New York-Presbyterian Columbia Hospital to bring attention to staffing shortages. Nurses say they have high patient loads that are unsafe, and that staff are burned out.

“This is some of the worst short-staffing that I have seen in 30 years, and trust me, I have seen a lot,” Noemi DeJesus-Aponte, a Labor and Delivery Nurse at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, said at a Nov. 17 rally calling for safe-staffing in the hospital system.

More than 100 nurses from the New York State Nurses Association demonstrated outside of New York-Presbyterian Columbia Hospital in Washington Heights to bring attention to poor working conditions, with many nurses saying they felt burned out because of the high patient load.

'Siege' Caseloads Linger

NYSNA President Nancy Hagans said that nurses were still expected to take care of the same number of patients as they did during the height of the pandemic.

"During COVID, every nurse was an ICU nurse with 20-30 patients. When the surge went down, Presby froze the positions and stopped hiring nurses, but they continue to use the same COVID ratios,” she said.

Ms. DeJesus-Aponte noted that even when the hospital network does hire new staff, they don’t stick around.

“There isn’t a recruitment problem, there is a retention problem,” she said. “If we cannot retain our nurses, we’re in big trouble.”

One nurse said that they lost a potential recruit during orientation after she saw the working conditions.

Patient-Care Suffers

Nurses were doing a lot more than their typical duties because there was also a shortage of ancillary staff such as Patient Care Assistants and Certified Nursing Assistants, added Pediatric Emergency Nurse Aretha Morgan. She said that patients were suffering because of the current staffing crisis.

“The nurses are suffering, too: we took an oath in nursing school that we were going to do what’s right for patients,” she said.

Ms. DeJesus-Aponte stated that there were times when patients “are ignored for hours because a crisis walks through the door—a trauma, a heart attack—anything that requires a 1:1.”

Elected officials including Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa and State Sen. Robert Jackson added their voices to the call to improve staffing ratios.

Hospital: Nurses Valued

In a statement, New York-Presbyterian responded, “We value our dedicated nurses and their contributions to the exceptional care we deliver every day, reflected in the recognition our hospital has received for clinical excellence and outstanding patient outcomes. Despite the national shortage of nurses, we are continuously attracting and adding skilled, caring nursing professionals to our incredible care teams.”

But Ms. Hagans noted that the short-staffing problem was not unique to New York-Presbyterian.

“It’s not only at Presby, it’s all over the state of New York and New York City,” she said.

The union has advocated for years to improve staffing at hospitals across the state. Studies show that every additional patient per nurse increases the chance of death by seven percent.

Pickets to Come 

NYSNA members will rally over the coming weeks at four hospitals, including Northwell’s Staten Island University Hospital and Montefiore Bronx, to highlight widespread staffing issues.

Thanks to a law passed this spring, every hospital in the state will have to establish clinical-staffing committees by Jan. 1. Those committees will develop staffing plans for every patient-care unit.

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