WASHINGTON – Federal Nurses Week began as the vision of a group of nurses from around the country looking to spotlight the unique work of federal public servants in the nursing profession. As it’s celebrated in federal facilities around the nation Sept. 22-28, the American Federation of Government Employees is honored to support the work of federal employees in nursing positions.
More than 100,000 registered nurses, nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses, licensed vocational nurses and nursing assistants are providing services to our nation’s veterans, active duty troops and their families, and some of our most vulnerable populations. They serve a critical role in health care practices nationwide and are conducting their work in agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Prisons. The depth of the services provided is highlighted in this year’s theme: Honoring Those Who Protect Patients at Every Step of Care.
“AFGE is honored to celebrate the work, dedication and passion of public servants in nursing positions,” 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. Our love for nurses means we are strong advocates for proper funding, increased staffing and protection for those who raise concerns in the workplace.”
Current legislation that addresses key issues facing nursing professionals in the federal sector is the Nurse Staffing Standards for Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2015 (H.R. 1602), introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky and its Senate companion bill S. 864, introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer. A major component of this legislation requires that hospitals follow specified minimum nurse-to-patient ratios by unit. It also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a transparent method for establishing nurse staffing requirements above minimum ratios. Added protections for whistleblowers is also addressed in this legislation; ensuring that nurses who speak up for patient care are not penalized for doing so.
“The AFGE Nurse Steering Committee plays a key role in educating the public about registered nurses, nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses, licensed vocational nurses and nursing assistants in the federal sector,” said AFGE District 8 National Vice President Jane Nygaard. “We’re dedicated to the missions of our agencies and most of all delivering world-class care to the patients we serve. As advocates for working families, we know the importance of supporting legislation that keeps the patient and the worker in mind.”
“The care delivered to our nation’s veterans would not be possible without those serving in nursing positions,” said AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee. “Registered nurses, nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses, licensed vocational nurses, nursing assistants and workers throughout the VA are facing an uphill battle as attacks are levied against their right to due process in the workplace; which inevitably impacts the environment where veterans are receiving their care. 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.”