NEW YORK NURSE: July/August 2011
by Karen A. Ballard, MA, RN, FAAN, President
Two years ago I became the 48th NYSNA President. As the sands of time pull me to the end of this amazing, humbling, challenging, and, at times, daunting presidency, I want to again say “thank you” to all of you, my nursing colleagues, for this awesome opportunity to participate in NYSNA’s work in “advocating for patients and advancing the profession.”
It was my vision for all of us to work together to achieve NYSNA’s multipurpose organizational goals and I chose as the “watchword” for my presidency, the word, “advance.” You may remember that this is a tradition that I adopted from the International Council of Nurses. We have had successes and difficulties in seeking to “advance.”
Working together, we have been able to advance some important legislative and political issues that protect our practice and careers as nurses. It is now both a “shame and a crime” (felony) in NYS for anyone to assault a nurse while on duty.
Together, direct care nurses, advanced practice nurses, nurse administrators, educators and researchers have increased support for legislation promoting “BSN-in-10,” but we need to continue this effort. Outstandingly, there is also increased interest by legislators in advancing our safe patient handling and staffing legislation.
With the national initiatives generated by the awesome IOM’s Future of Nursing Report, Leading Change, Advancing Health, NYSNA is working collaboratively with state nursing groups on the regional Campaign for Action program to ensure that the IOM’s recommendations to solve our various shortages and allow all registered nurses to practice to the full extent of their abilities become reality. NYSNA has been “at the table” for the state’s Medicaid Redesign activities – politically difficult, but still working to make sure that we can protect our patients and their access to quality nursing care.
Regrettably, we seem slow in advancing beyond the things that divide us and in promoting an understanding that our collective bargaining activities bring strength to all of the nursing community. Of particular concern have been pension and benefits issues, where NYSNA has had both successes and challenges. NYSNA was successful at a national level in reforming the Pension Protection Act which resulted in a strong victory in saving the NYSNA Pension Plan through our multi-pronged strategy that included our “Go Green” campaign.
For many decades NYSNA had one of the best, if not the best, health benefits plans in the country. This summer, as a result of arbitration, NYSNA was not successful in retaining these plans. NYSNA will continue to fight to mitigate some of the increased out-of-pocket expenses our members will incur and develop strategies to restore some of these cuts.
Another fabulous success was the negotiation of retiree health voluntary employee beneficiary associations (VEBAs) and reimbursement for some costs associated with retiree health expenses. NYSNA looks forward to expanding these hard won benefits to more retirees.
While promoting numerous membership options and ways for nurses to connect with NYSNA, we have not seen substantial increases in our growth. Let me remind us one more time that “It is critical that all nurses feel at home in the ‘NYSNA House of Nursing,’ because it is not our differences that really matter, but that which joins us – our concern for our patients.” It is the Nurses Association, the strength of the spirit of nursing that will continue to advance the profession – it is this in which I put my trust as I move on and transfer the presidency to President-elect Winifred Kennedy. Continue to advance and prove that nurses make a difference!