RNs meet gather in Maryland for semi-annual meeting to share ideas on union building and facing professional challenges.

The SEIU Nurse Alliance held its biennial gathering October 25-27 in Maryland, bringing together hundreds of Registered Nurses from scores of SEIU locals in the U.S. and Canada. Nurses from New York City, Upstate New York, Massachusetts and Florida comprised 1199’s 170-member contingent.

Nurses from across the professional spectrum attended the semi-annual conference, where they discussed the current unprecedented challenges to nurses, strategized for more effective mobilization and advocacy, and harnessed the power of politics – local and national – to stand up for their profession and their patients.

Michael Richards, an RN at Montefiore Medical Center’s Wakefield Division for 15 years, found the conference presentations to be informative and motivating.

“There are so many nurses here from different states and different areas, and we are able to share our diverse experiences,” he says. “A lot of things come down the pipeline that affect us in the work place and when we are able to come together like this we can speak with one voice for ourselves and our patients.”

The conference program included talks from SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, Secretary Treasurer Gerald Hudson (who was formerly an 1199 member and the Union’s political Director) and Nurse Alliance National Chair, Diane Palmer.

“Our work is more important now than ever,” said Palmer. “The current [presidential] administration is intent on rolling back all of eh the gains we’ve made in environmental, healthcare and racial justice.”

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New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand appeared at the conference, reminding nurses of their power, value and unique authority to speak on behalf of caregivers and patients. In annual labor surveys, nurses score near or at the top for professions viewed as most admired, reliable and trustworthy.

A plenary session explored the ways nurses can advocate for themselves. There were panel discussions on safe staffing and needle stick prevention, and breakout workshops on numerous issues, including the opioid crisis, millennial nurse engagement, union activism and trauma management. On the conference’s second day attendees traveled to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to lobby elected officials for the protection of Medicaid and healthcare funding.

Celina Robertson-Parris is a Nurse Practitioner in Radiation Oncology at New York City’s Mount Sinai Medical Center. She attended the opioid crisis breakout session and said she found many of the conference discussions invigorating.

“I have never had a patient overdose, but I have seen abuse of medications,” she said. “It has definitely been empowering to be here, listening to these other nurses. I’m going back to my shop and tell them about these important conversations.”

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