Members of the Alaska Nurses Association who attended our virtual General Assembly on October 10th introduced and passed resolutions during the annual membership meeting. The members’ resolutions act as a guide for the Alaska Nurses Association’s programs, outreach, advocacy, and priorities over the coming year. The following are summaries of impactful resolutions passed by AaNA’s membership during the General Assembly.
Creating Safe Work Environments through Workplace Violence Prevention
Workplace violence in healthcare settings is a significant occupational hazard that threatens the safety and well-being of both healthcare workers and patients, and has caused death and serious injury. Healthcare workers suffer injuries associated with workplace violence at almost twice the rate of all other private sector workers.
AaNA will push for enactment of an OSHA standard that would require healthcare employers to establish and maintain comprehensive workplace violence prevention programs. We will also take a strong position against all forms of bullying and promote anti-bullying education, policies, and contractual language in all bargaining units.
Affirming our Opposition to Nurse Licensure Compact Legislation in Alaska
The State of Alaska is not a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact, and Alaska currently enjoys complete autonomy over the regulation of the profession of nursing, allowing local experts to make local decisions that are best for our state. Joining the Nurse Licensure Compact would erode Alaska’s state sovereignty and pose significant new complications for regulating nursing practice in our state.
AaNA affirms our position that licensure for nurses working in Alaska should be under the jurisdiction of the Alaska Board of Nursing, and remains unequivocally opposed to Nurse Licensure Compact legislation in Alaska. AaNA will intensify our efforts to educate Alaskan nurses, legislators, and the public on the dangers of joining the Nurse Licensure Compact and will mobilize our members in opposition to Nurse Licensure Compact legislation in Alaska.
Protecting Healthcare Workers through Infectious Disease Preparedness
The United States lacks a functioning state and local public health infrastructure with the capacity to respond to any large-scale infectious disease outbreak or other public health emergency. Multiple federal agencies have failed to uphold their mission to protect the public and healthcare workers from harm throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
AaNA joins the American Federation of Teachers in calling for a national policy of mass testing and contact tracing of SARS-COV-2, with guaranteed access to free and regular testing for healthcare workers. We will work alongside AFT to push the federal government, states, and employers to develop regulations and systems to prevent this massive failure to protect healthcare workers and the public at large from an infectious disease or other public health emergency from ever happening again.
And because no healthcare worker should have to experience the gross failure to uphold their right to a safe and healthy workplace, and one healthcare worker death from COVID-19 is too many, we will work through collective bargaining to ensure healthcare employers are prepared to protect healthcare workers from occupational exposure to COVID-19 and any other infectious disease outbreak.
Supporting the US Cadet Nurse Corps Service Recognition Act
In 1943, after one out of four nurses had volunteered to service in the armed services, the US healthcare system was on the verge of collapse. To meet the shortfall, the US Cadet Nurse Corps was established, and by the end of the war in 1945, was providing 80 percent of nursing care in US hospitals. Although the US Cadet Nurse Corps operated under the US Public Health Service and the military for the duration of WW2, it is the only uniformed service that was not given veteran service on discharge.
AaNA supports the passage of the United States Cadet Nurse Corps Service Recognition Act, in recognition of the service of these nurses to the nation in a time of war. We encourage the State of Alaska and local government entities to include recognition of the US Cadet Nurse Corps, and nursing in general, at the state and local level in museums and buildings. We encourage all nurses to take an interest in the history of their profession, and the crucial roles that nurses have played in the history of our state and nation.
Addressing COVID-19 Workplace Safety Standards
COVID-19 is a leading cause of death in the US, and workplaces are a primary place at risk for spread of the virus. Tracking of high-risk COVID-19 workplace exposures in healthcare is currently treated differently than workplace exposure events involving other infectious diseases such as TB, Hepatitis B and C, and HIV.
AaNA urges the Alaska Occupational Safety and Health Section to issue enforceable COVID-19 workplace safety standards, and we will continue to pursue any and all avenues to work with various state and national agencies to ensure the health and safety of frontline nurses and their families.
Essential Principles for a COVID-19 Vaccine
In order to ensure the safety and efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine and the public’s trust in it, it is essential that any possible vaccine successfully complete all of the steps of the Food and Drug Administration’s normal rigorous testing and review process, even if on an accelerated timeline. Once an effective, safe COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by the FDA, the US must create a fair, equitable, and efficient distribution system at scale. A well-managed national priority distribution plan must give priority to the most highly vulnerable in the community, including essential workers.
AaNA supports robust and rigorous vaccination programs for both influenza and COVID-19. In order to protect hospital capacity, it is more important than ever for all AaNA members to receive the flu vaccine. Once a COVID-19 vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective, AaNA will urge all members to receive COVID-19 vaccines. We urge the federal government to roll out a coordinated vaccination plan with the goal of everyone having a COVID-19 vaccine. We oppose any policy that makes health insurance or financial resources a prerequisite to accessing the vaccine. The program must have an effective communication and education strategy, as recommended by the Center of Health Security COVID-19 Working Group, so that the nation achieves 70 percent of the population being vaccinated in the coming year, the medically and ethically appropriate way to achieve herd immunity.