After a lengthy deliberation the California Nurses Association finally reached a contract agreement with UC, including UC San Diego. Throughout the various Universities of California, there are approximately 14-thousand nurses employed. This tentative agreement will affect them all, including nurses working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the student health center, of which there are ten. These nurses work long shifts, often without appropriate breaks, in stressful situations for minimal pay. The new contract agreement is meant to rectify this and other problems noticed, not only by nurses, but other medical professionals and concerned patients.
While the nurses were striving for better conditions for themselves, their agreement is meant to improve services for patients as well; including patient protection and privacy. If the new contract becomes permanent it will continue throughout 2022, beginning a 4-year term into October of that year.
What the New Contract Entails
This latest contract includes changes to the way nurses care for patients based on the illness of the patient. This is meant to create a safer working environment for nurses, protecting them from possibly infectious diseases, as well as protection for the patient who may require a more thorough level of care. Other areas of the contract which were updated were the guarantee of nurse breaks, including meals, which were sometimes being overlooked or skipped due to under staffing. A better grasp on shift rotation and staffing changes will help in this regard.
Other protection initiatives for nursing staff and patients come in the way of an anti-violence rule. Something which should be commonplace but isn’t, due to the public access of most hospitals and health centers. Physical and sexual harassment is prevalent in many of these publicly accessed facilities. Nurses have explained that this change is not only to protect themselves, but to give them the ability to help more patients. When a nurse is being attacked or put under physical or emotional duress, she can’t do her best to serve patients.
Aside from nurse and patient safety, nurses have asked for a raise in pay of 15% or more to be administered throughout the 4-year contract. Nurses have suggested that with current pay rates compared to cost of living in California cities, such as San Diego, they don’t make enough to live the quality of life which caregivers deserve. Spending days and nights caring for patients at the University of California is taxing and the current wage is not considered equal to the work being put in for nurses who want to “retire with dignity”. Pensions and benefits were also up for negotiation and the tentative agreement has left positive reactions throughout the California nursing community, which was reportedly feeling listless with their last contract.
Citizens of California can help their nurses by expressing support to hospital boards and universities where nurses work. Knowing the community is behind them is a huge incentive for nurses to be bold and stand firm for the contract changes they deserve.