NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (PIX11) — For her entire 34-year career as a nurse, Nancy Lipschutz has worked in the intensive care unit with cardiac patients. Her care can mean the difference between life and death.
“Patients can be literally fine one minute and dead the next. That’s how it works. You have to be aware of every minute change in that patient’s condition, so maybe you can prevent… but how can you prevent and pay that much attention when you are so spread thin,” said the veteran nurse.
That’s why she and the other nurses of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick went on strike Friday.
This was after their union and one of New Jersey’s largest hospitals failed to negotiate a new contract. The staffers said the number of patients each nurse is responsible for during a shift puts the patients at risk. They also want higher wages and benefits. The bargaining process has been bumpy since it started in April.
In July, union leaders rejected a pay increase offer made by the hospital, which has now hired travel nurses. Judy Danella, the nurses union president, claimed the travel nurses are getting more support than the sets.
“We should be inside working and not have travelers in there. Those nurses have three, two patients. All we are asking is one to five, one to four. And they are giving them resources, giving them everything in there,” said Danella.
She has worked at RWJUH for 28 years.
Last week, the hospital released a statement saying it has some of the highest staffing levels and highest-paid nurses in New Jersey. The hospital’s latest offer included a bonus for nurses, but they say it’s not all about the money. And they expected better treatment after all their hard work during COVID.
“It’s just really disheartening to not see the hospital care for us the way we cared for it when things were as bad as they were,” said nurse Phil Harnett.
“Nursing is a science, but it’s also something that you develop from your heart. It’s not tasks. You come here, and you give yourself to these people,” said Carol Tanzi, a registered nurse in the pediatric recovery room.
PIX11 News reached out to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s office to ask if he would be stepping in to help in the negotiations but did not get a response. There are no upcoming meetings between the union and the hospital leaders.