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Florida nurses are calling for better working conditions and higher pay

Emily Bloom

"I think the pandemic highlighted the nurses' value and now we’re asking to be paid that value,” said rally organizer Emily Bloom.

Nurses around the country marched Thursday for better pay and better working conditions. Emily Bloom, a Tallahassee registered nurse, organized a rally outside Florida’s historic Capitol building.

“We’re here for three reasons. We’re highlighting and wanting to create community awareness around workplace violence against health care workers. We’re wanting to highlight the patient and nurse staffing ratios and we’re also looking to highlight that nurses are paid inadequately,” Bloom said.

The COVID pandemic exacerbated an ongoing worker shortage in the health care industry. Bloom said she and her colleagues were often asked to take on added duties.

“We’re doing four people’s, five people’s jobs and not getting paid enough or one of us to take care of our families. I think the pandemic highlighted the nurses' value and now we’re asking to be paid that value,” Bloom said.

She pushed back on concerns about traveling nurses getting paid more than their local counterparts, arguing it makes sense. For example, she pointed out traveling nurses have to pay a mortgage on their house back home and pay for rent where they’re working.

Nurses at the rally also voiced support for efforts to reduce patient violence against nurses and to put federal nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in place.

They’re worried about a new state law signed in April by Gov. Ron DeSantis that would reduce the minimum time patients in places like nursing homes must receive direct care from certified nursing assistants. Those are the people who are responsible for taking care of a patient’s basic needs, like feeding patients or helping them go to the bathroom.

“The less time a patient gets to spend with staff means they’re at higher risk for infection. They’re at higher risk for pressure ulcers,” Bloom said.

Under the bill, the patient would still get the same amount of overall time with a staff member, but time spent with people like speech therapists or recreation staffers can be included in that total.

Supporters of the bill said the move was needed because of staffing shortages. Steve Bahmer who heads Leading Age Florida, a group that advocates for mostly non-profit long term care facilities said some facilities were turning patients away because they couldn’t meet the previous requirements.

“We have a member with a little bit north of 700 beds that has taken 200 beds offline because they just don’t have the staff to care for the residents who would be in those beds,” Bahmer told lawmakers during committee meeting on the bill.

Some health care experts pushed lawmakers to find solutions for the ongoing nursing shortage by focusing on education. They said getting more people into nursing school means funneling more people into the profession.

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