“We definitely need nurses to be part of the care team. I look forward to seeing how we can together change the lives of patients,” Mount Sinai Performing Provider System Medical Director Edwidge Thomas told the over 500 nurses and other healthcare workers who gathered on December 5 for the 1199SEIU Registered Nurses Labor Management Initiative’s (RNLMI) 7th Annual Nursing Symposium. This year’s conference, titled Advancing Nursing Excellence, focused on personal and professional challenges nurses face on a daily basis, in the midst of an ever-changing VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) environment.

Healthcare futurist and author Ian Morrison, the keynote speaker and moderator for the day, discussed the importance of building healthcare teams for the future, and leading healthcare experts in a panel discussion discussed how interdisciplinary approaches may be used in the future to improve patient outcomes. “I do believe the shift to payment from volume to value is an inevitable shift. That train has left the station,” said Arthur Gianelli, CEO of Mount Sinai St. Luke’s.

Morrison and the panelists also discussed the likely effect of the recent presidential election on health care policy and practice. League of Voluntary Hospitals President Bruce McIver urged his audience to react creatively to coming changes. “When I first started doing labor negotiations, it was 1980, right after the city’s financial crisis. But someone said to me wherever there is a crisis there is opportunity,” he said. “I have a lot of faith in nurses. I think you are very smart. And if you can find the opportunities and grasp the opportunities, we’ll all be all right.” 1199SEIU Training and Employment Funds Executive Director Sandi Vito echoed those sentiments and reminded listeners of the power of partnership. “We’re facing an uncertain future. Labor and management working together will be very important,” she said. And 1199SEIU’s Amy Gladstein said: “Everybody in this room, for the next four years, is really going to have to be on the barricades in terms of quality and access, at the same time that you’re doing your jobs.”

RNLMI Nurse Ambassador Sheron Simmons appreciated the opportunity to learn more about what nurses can do in response to healthcare trends. “It is crucial that the RN symposium continues because continuing education is necessary to keep us as nurses abreast to the changes in healthcare,” she said. “It also helps us to make adjustments in the delivery of care,  thus improving the quality of life for those we deliver care to.”

Reverend Kandace Simmons taught attendees the importance of self-care through meditation and mindfulness. Attendees also learned about emerging trends in healthcare delivery, through breakout sessions such as Communication for Successful Engagement and Retention of New Staff, The Care of the Transgender Patient and Labor Management Partnering for Quality. In a session titled Friday Night in the Emergency Room (pictured above), attendees participated in a game that simulated the roles of key players in a hospital’s emergency room.  It was just one of many ways the symposium demonstrated the vital importance of having sufficient numbers of well trained staff in healthcare. “Regardless of what else happens, an investment in the workforce is always a good investment,” said Gianelli.

Other speakers also highlighted ways that labor and management can work together to improve patient care. “It is my first time attending the RN Symposium and I am having a great experience,” said Niki Vasilopoulos, a manager at Mount Sinai Queens. “I think it is so important that management gets together with the staff. The more that we can engage with each other, the better our outcomes will be. In the end, we all want the same things.”

In her closing remarks, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East Executive Vice President Norma Amsterdam issued a call to action. “Nurses need to utilize learning opportunities like the RN Symposium to the fullest and be engaged,” she said.

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