WASHINGTON – As the nation observes National Nurses Week, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh met with a group of nursing professionals from around the nation on May 6, 2022, and discussed their bedside experiences with patients during the pandemic, healthcare industry staffing challenges and the importance of quality jobs in retaining and recruiting workers.
Secretary Walsh and department leaders were joined by representatives of the American Federation of Teachers, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, National Nurses United, and the Service Employees Industrial Union. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also took part.
“Staffing challenges existed before the pandemic, but the hardships the nation’s nursing professionals overcame for more than two years are unprecedented,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “Day in, day out, these people put their patients and their communities first, and sometimes at great personal risk. The Department of Labor is committed to shoring up this workforce at both ends – by attracting more workers to fill the pipeline of new nurses and promoting job quality to keep nurses at work.”
In their conversations with the Secretary and leaders from both agencies, the nurses shared moving perspectives on the challenges of caring for COVID-19 patients, ranging from working despite shortages of personal protective equipment at the height of the pandemic to facing seemingly endless hours of overtime. The nurses also described trends in long-term staffing patterns in the healthcare industry that have contributed to today’s staffing challenges. Other areas they discussed commonly include:
The need for adequate staffing and real-time off, both for nurses and patients’ safety.
The importance of safety and health protocols to protect healthcare workers.
Bottlenecks in training nurses slowing the pipeline.
The power of unions and how workers can be partners in addressing each of these challenges.
Also on hand for the event were representatives of the department’s Employment and Training Administration, Women’s Bureau, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Wage and Hour Division. From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, leaders from the Health Resources and Services Administration, and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services attended.