PEF 39th Annual Convention:
PEF nurses get valuable, current information
Nearly 100 PEF nurses gathered for a luncheon in Lake Placid where they received a wealth of information ranging from PEF’s legislative agenda on nursing issues to the out-of-control opioid epidemic in the nation.
PEF Nurse Organizer Dee Dodson said the event was an opportunity for nurses to network, become informed and to realize the ways in which PEF is working for them.
PEF President Wayne Spence spoke passionately about the nurses who traveled to Puerto Rico to help the victims of Hurricane Maria, but also about the willingness of other nurses and health care professionals who wanted to volunteer.
“Initially, we wanted to send our people to Texas, but immediately got pushed back. We had to go over the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations and go directly to the governor to point out that his own commissioners and managers were not paying attention to his priorities.”
The nurses applauded when Spence said, “We learned we need more training for nurses on how to respond to certain disasters. We are going to develop training with the American Federation of Teachers and the state AFL-CIO, so you get the credits.”
Spence mentioned how several national media outlets have featured the PEF nurses who went to Puerto Rico, and said, “I am so humbled and blessed to have these nurses in our union. PEF nurses, you guys are on the map!”
PEF Legislative Director Greg Amorosi reinforced PEF’s ongoing message to vote against Proposition 1 on the back of the November 7 election ballot.
“We need to stop it now. But if it does pass, we will form a coalition and have delegates who are labor friendly. We are going to be ready,” Amorosi said.
He also spoke about the Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees case saying a decision should be made by June, but possibly as early as March.
“The wild card is the new Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch. We don’t know how he will vote. We are hoping for an earlier decision in the event we have to go to the state capital and twist arms when the legislators are in town.”
Amorosi told the nurses PEF will put more pressure on the Senate to get the safe staffing bill moving.
“We will also put some teeth in the mandatory overtime bill so it can provide for meaningful civil penalties such as hefty fines, plus compensation for nurses. That’s a PEF priority, especially for nurses who work in facilities. I will be pushing for this.
“Assault legislation is another area PEF is addressing. When someone gets hurt in the workplace by a patient or individual, there is no willingness to prosecute. This is a real problem. I speak fluent prosecutor and will be having conversations with the District Attorneys Association and police departments to try to come up with a solution.”
Amorosi asked the nurses if things were improving with the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, and the response was that it is dictating to agencies, and then agencies are the ones destroying careers and people.
The legislative director concluded, saying PEF is forming a coalition and plans to sit down with agency managers and Justice Center staff to get the truth and facts about the ongoing problems that affect members.
Opioid overdose training
Julie Hutchinson, a nurse 3 at Rochester Psychiatric Center, delivered a moving and informative presentation about opioid overdoses, calling it a “global epidemic.”
“All of us can do something to address this epidemic in some capacity,” she said. “In 2013, there were 43,982 drug overdose deaths. That figure is doubling and we are headed in the wrong direction. We are all affected in our circles.”
Hutchinson presented a PowerPoint presentation and distributed a hard copy with valuable information, and urged the nurses to use it as a tool and tailor it to fit their regions.
“Use it to save lives,” she said.
Hutchinson also shared a story about her brother who had a fierce heroin addiction problem in the 1970s, but turned his life around with treatment.
“He became a very productive man and a savior in our family by the way he helped our father. Every overdose is an opportunity for change.”
The nurses luncheon included a presentation of certificates to the nurses who went to Puerto Rico (see related story) and a raffle drawing.
Nurses Committee Co-chairs Nora Higgins and Tim Quain said the nurses had several positive comments about the event. They also are urging all PEF registered nurses to complete a confidential survey, which is available on the PEF website at https://www.pef.org/member-resources/nurses/. The link also takes you to a PEF Nurse First Aid Kit with instructions on using a Protest of Assignment Form and how to report mandatory overtime to the state Department of Labor.