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Nurses Week 2015 - a focus on advocacy & celebration


Highlights from around the country.

By: Dian Palmer, RN, Chair, Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare
Jul 21, 2015

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I hope nurses across the country took a moment during Nurses Week 2015 to celebrate and reflect on all the amazing accomplishments of the year. I was amazed and inspired as I thought about the work of SEIU nurses, from the Ebola crisis to the continued attacks on the healthcare law, we played a critical role in shaping policy and educating our communities and patients.

If you haven't already, consider sharing your story or nursing anecdote with all of us here.

As June approaches, we focus our energy on continuing to educate our colleagues and communities about what is at stake as the U.S. Supreme Court comes closer to a decision in the King v. Burwell case. The health of millions of Americans hangs in the balance andSEIU nurses have been out front on education efforts.

In this issue, we have some great information including:

  • Highlights from our Nurses Week events from across the country;
  • HHS clarifies for insurers the need to cover all approved types of contraception;
  • News on the GOP presidential candidates and their stance on healthcare; and
  • A new study by Rand that gives more evidence the healthcare law is working.

In solidarity,

Dian Palmer, RN
Chair, Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare




As part of the 2015 California Nurse Alliance Legislative Conference: Safe Nurses Save Patients, nurses rallied at the capitol in Sacramento on May 6 to support the California Safe Care Standards campaign. Nurses are working with Cal/OSHA and others to develop an enforceable workplace violence prevention regulation for healthcare workers with commonsense safeguards for all healthcare workers. Check out photos and video from the action.

Check the news coverage from FOX 40-KTXL and KBFK of the rally in Sacramento.

Learn more about the history of the California Legislative Conference.

View pictures of both the Sacramento action and the 2015 Legislative Conference.


SEIU Nurses in Iowa celebrated National Nurses Week by reaching out to educate their communities and colleagues about the healthcare law and what is at stake as the SCOTUS considers the King v. Burwell decision.

Nurses such as Karen Schneider submitted letters to the editor and had conversations with their colleagues. Below is an excerpt of Schneider's letter in the Telegraph Herald:

Nurses see benefits of healthcare law firsthandAs we celebrate National Nurses Week (May 6-12), I write in support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

I have worked as a nurse for 27 years in orthopedics, neurosurgery and in the operating room in Dubuque. The Affordable Care Act has really improved my life as a nurse, because it has improved the lives of my patients.

In the past, my patients have delayed care because they didn't have access to affordable insurance, and had to make decisions about keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table or buying health insurance. The healthcare law has changed that, both by putting affordable care within reach through tax credits and by putting a focus on preventive care.
Read the full letter here.

New York

Often described as the Oscars of nursing, the 12th annual Nurse of Distinction awards ceremony brought together union members, community and health industry leaders to honor and recognize all 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East registered nurses for their excellence and commitment to quality patient care.

Click here to see the award winners, videos and photos from the event.


SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania nurses kicked off this year's Nurses Week by joining colleagues from the AFL-CIO, Jersey Nurses Economic Security Organization (JNESO) and Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses & Allied Professionals (PASNAP) in the Capitol rotunda in Harrisburg to urge legislators to support a new House bill that would institute concrete, minimum nurse-to-patient ratios for hospitals and other healthcare facilities in the state.

The nurse-to-patient ratio bill is being introduced in bipartisan cooperation by Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-18) and Rep. Adam Ravenstahl (D-20).

"Countless studies have shown that minimum nurse-to-patient ratios save lives and improves patient outcomes," said Deborah Bonn, RN and director of the Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare PA. "Not only that, they actually reduce overall healthcare costs, while helping to cure nurse job dissatisfaction and burnout. Passing this legislation is the right move for Pennsylvania."

Check out the blog post about the Harrisburg event.

View the SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania weeklong series of profiles to highlight the amazing work done by nurses.


SEIU 1199NW nurses hosted a speak out in Seattle on May 7 where they called on hospitals to put patients first and ensure communities have access to safe, accessible, quality care.

View pictures and learn more about the event.

Standing up for patients at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Hospital and Labs
locked uut PeaceHealth caregivers return to patients

Following two-day lockout, caregivers are back at the bedside

After PeaceHealth St. Joseph Hospital and Labs caregivers went on an unfair labor practice strike for 25 hours to stand up for a better investment in front-line care, PeaceHealth chose to leave out-of-town replacement workers at the bedside rather than allow caregivers back into the hospital. Following a two-day lockout, the caregivers--members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW--returned to their patients Saturday morning, walking in with community supporters.

Read the full blog post to learn more.



HHS to health insurers: Cover all approved contraception for free

Women's health advocates cheered May 11 after the Obama administration issued an unambiguous statement that said health insurers can't impose cost-sharing for approved birth control methods.

"It's extremely helpful because there really was a problem that needed fixing," said Susan Wood, the director of the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health at George Washington University.

The business community also welcomed the clarification. Insurance companies said the guidance--which clarified other insurance issues such as testing for cancer--would help ensure their policies conform to Affordable Care Act standards.

Find out more in the full Modern Healthcare article.

Click here to see more of SEIU's advocacy on the contraception issue.

Recent trends in the nursing pipeline: U.S. educated BSNs continue to increase

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) publishes data annually on graduates of nursing programs and foreign nurses who have taken and passed the NCLEX-RN licensure exam. The data is a good metric of the nursing pipeline that will impact the future supply of nurses.

A recent Health Affairs blog published a trend analysis of NCSBN data from 2001 to 2014. It found the number of nursing graduates taking the NCLEX has continued to increase, although the rate of growth may be slowing. However, the growth in the number of Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) graduates taking the exam continues to be strong. 

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on the Future of Nursing, among others, has recommended the US healthcare system rely more extensively on graduates of BSN programs to take on the increasingly independent and sophisticated tasks performed by nurses in a post-health reform, team-based environment.

Visit Health Affairs to find out more on these trends.

Home-visiting nurses for first-time mothers help reduce government costs

Symphonie Dawson was 23 and studying to be a paralegal while working part time for a temporary staffing agency when she learned the reason she kept feeling sick was because she was pregnant.

In 2010, the health law created the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program and provided $1.5 billion in funding for evidence-based home visiting programs. There are now 17 home visiting models approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Congress reauthorized the program in April with $800 million in funds for the next two years.

The Nurse-Family Partnership is one of the largest and best-studied programs. Decades of research into how families fare after participating in it have documented reductionsin the use of social programs such as Medicaid and food stamps, reductions in child abuse and neglect, better pregnancy outcomes for mothers and better language development and academic performance by their children, among other things.

Read the full article in Kaiser Health News.



The clock is ticking and Republicans still have no serious Obamacare alternative

Republicans keep saying they'll be ready to act if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the big legal challenge to Obamacare, thereby wiping out financial assistance for millions of people in two-thirds of the states.

With the clock ticking down to a ruling, it's gotten awfully hard to take the GOP's vows seriously.

Most experts expect the court to rule on King v. Burwell, as the case is known, on or around June 29, which is the last official day of its term. A victory for the plaintiffs would cut off tax credits residents in Florida, Texas and 32 other states now use to pay for health insurance they obtain through, the federally operated marketplace.

Read the full article at the Huffington Post.

HHS chief touts legacy of Obamacare on mental health

The head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said May 7 the nation is coming closer to eliminating the "shame and secrecy" around mental illnesses, in part because of Obamacare.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said new coverage rules under Obamacare are now ensuring about 60 million people are getting behavioral healthcare--"many for the first time in their lives."

She also highlighted the law's requirement for insurers to offer preventive services, such as screenings for alcohol abuse and depression, "all without co-pays or out-of-pocket fees."

Read the full article in The Hill.

New study gives more evidence of Obamacare gains for millions

As congressional Republicans move toward another vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act, new evidence was published May 6 about the dramatic expansion of insurance coverage made possible by the law.

Nearly 17 million more people in the United States have gained health insurance since the law's major coverage expansion began, according to a study from the Rand Corp., a Santa Monica nonprofit research firm.

That tally takes into account 22.8 million newly insured people and 5.9 million who lost coverage in the last year and a half.

Researchers found gains across all types of insurance, including employer-provided coverage, government Medicaid programs and policies offered through state insurance marketplaces created by the law. At the same time, the vast majority of Americans have seen no change in the source of their coverage, with 80 percent remaining in the same insurance, researchers found.

Read the full L.A. Times article here.



Don't get sick in July and other secrets of nurses

For her recent book, The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital, author Alexandra Robbins spent four years following nurses to find out more about the healthcare system. Her interviews of "the best-informed, hardest-working and savviest professionals in healthcare" unveiled how the healthcare system works for the wealthy 1%, politicians and other VIPs. 

She recalls: "I was continually astonished by the red carpet some hospitals rolled out for certain classes of patients. A Virginia nurse explained that this is why Washington[,D.C.,] might not understand healthcare. He said, 'Politicians have such a warped sense of how the healthcare system works because they never have to be part of the actual system.' "

Read more about this book in Politico.

New treatments may transform cancer care

A new type of blood test is starting to transform cancer treatment, sparing some patients the surgical and needle biopsies long needed to guide their care.

The tests, called liquid biopsies, capture cancer cells or DNA that tumors shed into the blood, instead of taking tissue from the tumor itself.

Find out more.



The Nurse Alliance Roundup is now online. Want to see past issues of the Nurse Alliance newsletter, beginning in 2013? Now you can.