AFSCME NJ Nurses Celebrate Nurses Week, Still Face Struggles

During National Nurses Week, we celebrate heroes who bring compassion, competence and courage to their jobs every day and for whom healing us and their communities is a calling.

No wonder Americans, year after year, cite nursing among the professions they trust the most.

Nurses do so much more than just check vitals and administer shots. With great skill and training, they respond in dire situations, when we are most vulnerable. In an environment where the stakes are high and the margin for error is slim, they excel in the face of pressure and provide the healing touch even when things look grim.

Fair pay, improved safety standards and better staffing ratios helps not just nurses, but the patients they serve. AFSCME’s nurses also fight for a better health care system for us all. It is a fight that Menlo Park Soldiers Home Local 979 President Shirley Suddoth-Lewis is all too familiar with.

“Nursing matters because we preserve life. But it’s a thankless job. You really have to have compassion to do it. For me, when I can make a difference it makes me feel good. I feel so strongly about patient care,” she says.

“We are severely understaffed here at Menlo,” explains Suddoth-Lewis. “It’s frustrating when you can’t give the patient quality time when you’re short-staffed. You become a nurse that sits behind the desk and does paperwork, you don’t feel like you’re accomplishing anything because you don’t have time to spend with the resident.

“If it were a perfect world, we would not be treated like a medical center. We’re a nursing home. We would be able to spend quality time with the residents. We would have more efficient paperwork to reduce the redundancy of filling out the same information over and over. If you would give the nurses and CNAs time to care for patients in the proper way, it would be good for the nurses, and good for the residents. We need more staff. That’s the only way you can get things done.

“Working under that kind of stress is bad for our residents, bad for us, even bad for our health. They need to stop looking at the dollars and start looking at how the staff can be an asset to the residents,” she says.

Led by AFSCME New Jersey’s Suddoth-Lewis, the employees of Menlo Park Soldiers Home have come together to circulate a petition to implore management to more adequately staff the facility. The petition has now garnered more than 200 signatures from employees who work at the facility.

AFSCME is proud to represent nurses who play so many different roles in a variety of settings: hospitals, correctional facilities, nursing homes, schools, public health departments, human services departments and so much more.