NJ Members Lead Movement for Nursing Home Safe Staffing

August 20, 2018

1199magJuly_August2018.jpg1199 members in New Jersey are in the final stretch of a years’ long effort to win a safe staffing bill for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) in the state’s nursing homes. New Jersey nursing homes rank near the bottom in the country for CNA hours per patient; members say that lack of staff often prevents them from delivering the person-centered care their residents need and deserve.

As part of their campaign to raise awareness about the issue, 1199 members have been making trips to the state capital in Trenton multiple times a week, pressing the urgency of safe staffing legislation with elected officials.

Sherry McGhie, a CNA from Paterson, NJ, has been a major voice in this effort, speaking at rallies, testifying at legislative hearings, and even lending her voice to a radio spot which played across the state. “What we’re finding is that short staffing causes patients to break down. It is not an easy thing to talk about,” McGhie testified at spring hearings of New Jersey’s Senate Health Committee. “When a patient is stuck in bed for too long without being moved, it can cause their skin to deteriorate. I have seen patients develop deep wound issues because they have spent too much time lying down.”

On May 1, International Workers’ Day, hundreds of 1199 members flooded Trenton to rally for safe staffing. Margaret Boyce, a CNA and long-time delegate from Elizabeth, NJ, shared some of the more intangible ways that poor staffing levels impact caregivers and residents.

“Sometimes, residents who have no relatives want to share a memory with us, but you don’t have time to listen. You have twenty patients—you have to feed them, you have to dress them, and you only might have two minutes to have a nice moment or console them,” said Boyce. “It’s heartbreaking because sometimes you can see the pain in their eyes, being lonely. You just don’t have the time.”

On July 1, New Jersey’s Senate passed the staffing bill. It now heads to the Assembly for its final vote this fall. 1199 members are continuing to mobilize during the summer legislative recess and keeping up the pressure.

1199 Magazine: July / August 2018