Have You Thanked a Nurse Today? It's Federal Nurses Week

Categories: DoD, VA, BOP

Anyone who has been in a hospital knows that nursing professionals are often the first people you see when you enter and the last you speak to before you leave. What many do not know is that there are approximately 100,000 nurses across several federal government agencies serving countless patients each and every day.

This week, we celebrate the registered nurses, nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses, licensed vocational nurses and nursing assistants and many others who care for our nation's vulnerable populations, veterans, and active duty troops and their families. These nursing professionals work at diverse agencies like the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Prisons. Like many health care providers, the stories of their care for patients too often go untold.

That's why the 2nd Annual Federal Nurses Week, September 22-28, honors those who help protect patients at every step of care.

“AFGE is honored to celebrate the work, dedication and passion of public servants in the nursing profession," said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. "Part of our responsibility in supporting our nurses is fighting for the conditions they need to continue to provide world-class care."

Before he was the AFGE national president, Cox started his career as a nurse and saw first-hand the sacrifice and dedication that federal nurses bring to their jobs. Every nurse faces their own challenges from patient to patient and from facility to facility. But in the federal government, those challenges often appear in the form of budget cuts, understaffing and unsafe worksites. 

"We know that our nurses are successful when they have the tools and personnel they need to get the job done," Cox said. "So there is no better way to celebrate their work than to support and empower them to do what they do best - keep our country healthy and strong."

AFGE is working with lawmakers to pass commonsense legislation to improve working conditions for our members in the nursing profession, including:

The Nurse Staffing Standards for Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2015 (H.R. 1602)
Companion Bill: S. 864

  • Requires that hospitals follow specified minimum nurse-to-patient ratios by unit
  • Directs the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a transparent method for establishing nurse staffing requirements above minimum ratios
  •  Ensures that nurses who speak up for patient care are not penalized for doing so

H.R.2193 - VA Employee Fairness Act of 2015
Companions Bill: S. 1257

  • Ensures equal bargaining rights for VA RNs and other VA clinicians under Title 38

Department of Veterans Affairs Equitable Employee Accountability Act of 2015 (S. 1856):
Companion Bill: H.R. 2999

  • Ensures the safety of veterans and employees
  • Requires training and comprehensive performance plans for VA political appointees and managers on whistleblower rights, workforce recruitment, employee engagement and leadership building
  • Closes the gap in current whistleblower law by ensuring that the Office of Special Counsel can process complaints about retaliatory performance evaluations
  • Addresses widespread “revolving door” problems by restricting the ability of former VA officials to receive compensation as contractors
  • Managers will be required to make quicker assessments of whether an employee should be put back to work serving veterans or should be terminated or reassigned

“The AFGE Nurse Steering Committee is committed to educating the public about the vital services federal workers in the nursing profession provide," said AFGE District 8 National Vice President Jane Nygaard. "As advocates for working families, we know the importance of supporting legislation that puts the patient and their nurses first.”

The AFGE Nurse Steering Committee and the AFGE National Veterans Affairs Council (NVAC) established the first Federal Nurses Week in 2014 to tell the untold story of these dedicated civil servants. AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee said that too often, those stories don't reach the decision makers on Capitol Hill.

“As we do the work to educate our lawmakers on the importance of preserving workers’ rights we take with us the stories of nurses caring for those who’ve defended our freedoms," Lee said.

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