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Nursing Union Goes to Washington

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, June 7, 2011

Nurses are rallying in Washington, DC, Tuesday to bring attention to average Americans' healthcare hardships, saying the economic downturn has resulted in a healthcare emergency for many in this country.

The event has been organized by National Nurses United, the country's largest nursing union, which represents 170,000 nurses. NNU expects nurses to be joined by labor and community allies and will rally in front of the White House, Congress, and the Chamber of Commerce.

The NNU is proposing a "Main Street Contract for the American People," which, according to a press release, is "a program for rebuilding American communities with jobs, healthcare, education, and other urgent needs, funded through a fair tax policy targeted at those on Wall Street who created the economic crisis."

The event puts nurses at the forefront of healthcare reform discussions and positions them as advocates for patients. The presentations will link the recession and everyday Americans' economic woes to a myriad of problems, including poor health outcomes.

"We're here to talk about reinvesting in America in turns of investing in our communities," says  DeAnn McEwen, RN, co-president of the California Nurses Association. "We believe it has to change. People are suffering. We see them every day. They have lost their jobs, they are suffering illnesses, hospitals are closing beds. There's a whole population of people who have lost their healthcare coverage."

In an article in NNU's magazine for its members, the organization posited that healthcare legislation missed its chance to reform the industry and instead served to further entrench an insurance system that leaves too many Americans uninsured or underinsured. It states that too many are either without care or shoulder so much of the economic responsibility for healthcare that it leaves them financially strapped or forced to choose between medical care and essential household payments.

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