AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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AFT Healthcare Key Issues

Every Child Needs a School Nurse

While everyone recognizes schools as education centers and sites for extracurricular activities, there is far less awareness that the vast majority of schools are also healthcare settings. Almost one-third (30%) of children have chronic health issues including diabetes, asthma and hypertension. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one-third of school-aged children are obese or overweight; 13% require prescription medication use lasting three months; and slightly fewer than 10% have asthma. The breadth of the health issues and needs of children in our schools can be mind-boggling. Read more.

Safe Staffing

Ensuring that a sufficient number and mix of registered nurses (and other nursing care personnel) are available to provide direct, hands-on care to patients is an ongoing problem despite established research-based recommendations on minimum staffing levels for specific units. Hospitals refuse to staff to levels supported by research, often citing cost issues as the reason they are chronically understaffed. At the same time, hospitals pay the price by absorbing the cost of readmissions, the cost of "never events" (serious healthcare mistakes that are often avoidable), and the cost of fatigued staff working (often in mandatory situations) in less-than-optimal conditions. Read more.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

A range of factors—including a rapidly aging population with multiple health needs; provisions in the Affordable Care Act that focus on the importance of close monitoring of those with chronic illnesses and the prevention of hospitalization; and the addition of 30 million newly insured people into the healthcare system—are driving a need for primary care providers (PCPs). The current gap in PCPs is 15,000; the number is expected to triple to 45,000 in the next seven years.  Read more.

Workplace Violence

The specter of workplace violence in healthcare settings is a growing phenomenon that healthcare facilities have not addressed adequately.  Few healthcare facilities have adopted comprehensive workplace violence prevention programs and security systems. Unfortunately, many healthcare workers consider workplace violence to be "just part of the job," and many don't report assaults and injuries. Read more.

Healthcare Workforce Shortages

For a range of reasons including: insufficient capacity for students; higher-paying job alternatives in other professions; and stressful and risky occupational choices, there are fewer and fewer replacements for today’s healthcare workforce in the pipeline. The result is an aging and overburdened workforce caring for an aging and more critically ill patient population.  Read more.

Mandatory Overtime

Nurses and other healthcare workers are being required to work past the end of their regularly scheduled shifts, which may be as long as twelve hours. This unexpected overtime may result from an emergency but often happens simply because the employer is filling a hole in the schedule by forcing employees to work overtime rather than hiring more staff.   Long hours—especially longer-than-expected hours—are not only damaging to the health and well-being of those working them but lead to medical errors and unsafe care.  Read more.

Healthcare Quality and Accreditation

With each passing year, increasing scrutiny is being imposed on the range of healthcare facilities to determine the quality of care they provide. While this information is not readily available to most healthcare workers, insurers have the ability to leverage the data as a means of determining accreditation, and subsequently reimbursement.  Read more.

Safe Patient Handling

An aging patient population, and a similarly aging healthcare workforce, combine to form a potential for injury as a result of various scenarios including patient falls and provider strains. That problem is exaggerated by an increasingly obese society that has made bariatric lifts, extra-large wheelchairs and specially sized beds a necessity to meet the care needs of today’s patient population.  Read more.

Health and Safety in the Workplace

Working in healthcare can be hard on your health. Nurses and other health professionals have higher rates of back injury and lower-back pain than construction workers. Needlesticks, bloodborne pathogens, viruses, asthma resulting from bad air quality, violence and stress are also among the most common occupational hazards. AFT Health and Safety provides information and resources to help leaders and members identify hazards and work toward preventing exposure and improving the environment. Read more.

Health Literacy Considerations for All Health Professionals

Most healthcare professionals are aware of the problems patients have in deciphering the myriad instructional sheets, brochures, appointment slips, authorization forms and educational materials placed in their hands, but the extent to which patients have these problems is not so well understood. It is recommended that these health-related materials for patients do not exceed a fifth-grade level, yet most of these materials are written at a 10th-grade level. Read more.

Fight for America's Future

Fight for America's Future is an AFT campaign that brings all the union's divisions together in advocating for policies to preserve and create good jobs and protect the vital public services that AFT's members provide. Read more.

Green Jobs in the Green Economy

The AFT has joined the Blue Green Alliance, a coalition of labor unions and environmental groups with big plans to make the nation more prosperous and leave the planet in better shape. With the addition of the AFT's 1.5 million members this July, the alliance now unites 8 million people in pursuit of good jobs, a clean environment and a green economy. Read more.