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New York City nurses end strike after reaching a tentative agreement

Nurses from Mount Sinai Hospital strike outside the hospital on Monday in the Upper East Side neighborhood of New York City.
Michael M. Santiago
Getty Images
Nurses from Mount Sinai Hospital strike outside the hospital on Monday in the Upper East Side neighborhood of New York City.

A strike involving more than 7,000 nurses at two of New York City's biggest hospitals has ended.

After three days on the picket line, the New York State Nurses Association union said it reached tentative deals with Mount Sinai Health System and Montefiore Health System.

The deal includes "concrete enforceable safe staffing ratios" so that there will "always be enough nurses at the bedside to provide safe patient care, not just on paper," the NYSNA wrote in a statement.

A 10-day strike notice at New York's Wyckoff Hospital also ended with the tentative deal.

Nurses at both hospitals were back at work tending to patients on Thursday morning, but the deal won't be finalized until the nurses hold a vote.

Among the proposed stipulations are that all inpatient units at Mount Sinai will have set nurse-to-patient ratios and, at Montefiore, staffing in the Emergency Department staffing will see an increase, the NYSNA said.

Montefiore also agreed to financial penalties for failing to comply with agreements across all units. Exact staffing ratios outlined in the deal were not immediately available.

"With the agreement that we came to, we have very good staffing grids," Fran Cartwright, chief nursing officer at Mt. Sinai, told NPR's Morning Edition. "The enforcement language provides a real pathway to binding arbitration."

In a statement released Thursday, Mount Sinai called the new deal "fair and responsible" and similar in scope to what's in place at other New York City hospitals.

Montefiore said in a similar statement that their representatives "came to the table committed to bargaining in good faith and addressing the issues that were priorities for our nursing staff."

WYNC reporter Caroline Lewis told NPR on Monday that there were hundreds of unfilled nursing positions at the two hospitals, which ultimately reduced the overall quality of patient care.

In the past few years, many have left for more lucrative travel nursing positions. Others left the profession altogether, exhausted by waves of COVID-19 infections.

The shortages, which aren't unique to New York City, aren't expected to subside as the pandemic does. An aging population is another factor: To keep up, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the U.S. needs to hire and train more than 275,000 additional nurses before 2030.

Higher pay and better conditions will all be a key part of reaching that number, Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, president of the American Nurses Association, told NPR's Morning Edition on Wednesday.

"We need to look at how we can address getting more nurses to be faculty and address the faculty shortage," she said. "And we also need to look at the work environment and encourage nurses to stay nurses and not to leave the profession. We want nurses to be nurses for their entire career."

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Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.