AFT - American Federation of Teachers

Shortcut Navigation:
Email ShareThis

AFT Resolutions


WHEREAS, the mission of the healthcare system is to meet the needs of patients and their families—a fact that's often overlooked as insurance companies, hospitals and providers squabble over how to protect their economic interests in a rapidly changing environment. Too often, patients and their families are being set adrift in systems where care is uncoordinated, communication is scant and staffing is insufficient to meet their most basic needs in a timely way; and

WHEREAS, we applaud the fact that the Affordable Care Act tries to put the patient back at the center of the healthcare system through mechanisms such as basing a percentage of Medicare payment on standardized patient-satisfaction surveys; and

WHEREAS, we are concerned, however, that many healthcare employers have responded to this new emphasis on patient experience by hiring consultants such as the Studer Group and Disney Corp. to provide nurses and other health professionals with "customer service" training—including specific scripts to be followed in communications with patients and their families; and

WHEREAS, we believe this is not money well spent in today's expensive healthcare system, nor does it show an understanding of the care and services that patients and their families really need. In addition to their clinical work, caregivers provide much more than a cheery presence. They give emotional support to patients who are terrified, help families understand the difficult choices they're facing and comfort those who are facing death. These are not conversations that can be scripted, nor can they be learned through "customer service" training; and

WHEREAS, the unfortunate reality is that too often there are not enough nurses and other staff on duty to allow caregivers to meet the real needs of their patients, a situation that becomes worse as hospitals cut staff in an effort to prepare for reductions in reimbursement; and

WHEREAS, recent research confirms the commonsense notion that patient satisfaction is, in fact, significantly tied to the number of nurses on staff, the number of patients they are responsible for, and whether there is a supportive and positive work environment for nurses. If there are enough nurses and caregivers, they can take care of the patients' needs; if there aren't enough nurses and caregivers, no amount of customer-service training can mask that fact:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will reaffirm its support for the Affordable Care Act and similar efforts to create incentives to focus on the quality of care and the experience of patients within the healthcare system; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT, while supporting the good features of the Affordable Care Act, reaffirms its support for a single-payer system, Expanded and Improved Medicare for All; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue to advocate for mandatory nurse-to-patient staffing requirements both at the federal and state levels as the best way to ensure safe, effective patient care and to improve patient satisfaction; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will urge the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to include staffing measures for nurses and other caregivers in future versions of the factors used to calculate quality scores; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue to provide resources and research to assist its locals in bargaining for minimum staffing requirements and other improvements that benefit both their members and the patients, families and communities they serve.