From Heroes to Zeros | Nurses of RWJ

We are the nursing union, USW Local 4-200, representing 1,700 nurses employed by Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick (RWJ). RWJ is an award-winning hospital due to its dedicated, highly qualified nurses certified in various specialties.

We are currently on an unfair labor practice strike. We’re demanding a fair contract that addresses crucial issues that impact workers and the wider community, the most important of which is safe staffing.

Numerous studies found that unsafe nurse-to-patient ratios are linked to increases in mortality, infections, and nurse burnout.

We’re fighting for the safe staffing that’s critical for treating severely ill individuals – and all our patients. With proper ratios in place, we’ll be able to better serve our patients and communities, while maintaining a safer working environment for nurses.

It appears that RWJ observed that nurses were “able” to manage large patient loads during the COVID-19 pandemic, as nurses demonstrated heroic acts of selflessness. Though it took a heavy toll on us, we stepped up to the plate during the crisis to save lives. However, the patient load nurses accepted during the pandemic is not a sustainable solution.

Unfortunately, it seems that RWJ is trying to make abnormal circumstances the new normal – and then monetizing them.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we were hailed as heroes for our efforts. It is disheartening to find ourselves now feeling like zeros as we continue to fight to serve our patients and communities.

Additionally, RWJ management made the cruel and unnecessary decision to cut off our health insurance starting September 1.

We remain eager to return to work providing high-quality care for you and your loved ones, and we urge management to come back to the table to bargain in good faith with the hospital’s dedicated nurses.

Currently, Gov. Murphy and other local politicians are maintaining a neutral stance due to “interests” in the hospital. We need our elected leaders to speak out with one voice on behalf of working people.

Please help us as we call on Gov. Murphy to get off the sidelines. You can make your voice heard by visiting our website and signing our petition. You can also make a difference by calling Gov. Murphy’s office directly and demanding safe staffing.

We are in this together.

In solidarity,

Nurses of RWJ

Gov Murphy’s office: 609-292-6000

Nurses Strike Website:

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  1. Going on strike is not exactly decreasing the nurse to patient ratios. Additionally, if you truly cared about patient health you would stop making ridiculous amounts of noise outside the hospital and patients rooms for 15 hours a day.

    • Nurses do not make noise when they are working:), maybe ask the hospital administration to get to the negotiating table and get us off the street. The nurses do not want to be outside and make noise they want to be back and care for their patients. If the noise is an issue, there are abundance of hospitals in NJ! Or, you can do your part by helping the nurses by calling Murphy and signing the petition so that they get back inside!

  2. This letter is misleading. These nurses knew they would lose their benefits after a certain period of time. They have lost more money striking than they would have likely gotten for raises and the contracts have way more items in them than “safe ratios” that the hospital can’t agree too and stay afloat. It’s like when the government shuts down because stuff gets snuck into a budget and therefore one side won’t agree on it.

    I’m all for supporting nurses. Both these nurses and the ones who voted not to strike who need their paycheck and benefits for their families. I work in healthcare myself, but the way they’re presenting information in the media is not the full picture.

    • The Nurses deserve their benefits more than the administrators! There benefits are fine and just received 15 % increase with no skin in the game! A patient is a statistic to a administration, Not to a nurse!

    • Nurses did not know they’d would lose their benefits after a certain amount of time. The nurses are fighting for safe staffing more than money is concerned. Most nurses do not do what they do for money, rather to help people wen they are sick. The nurses are fighting for safe ratios with accountability. The hospital right now is offering “guidelines” only which is not enforceable, meaning they have no accountability for the guidelines and can change it whenever they want. That is not a fair proposal. The hospital wants to penalize nurses for calling out sick, when they are legally allowed, and have sick time. Besides, would anyone want sick nurses tending other sick patients such as those are immunocompromised? Nurses or anyone else should not be penalized for that.

      It is fair to ask the hospital to provide adequate health insurance for the nurses. Do you know that in majority of hospitals nurses get free healthcare or extremely reduced plans? Do you know that RWJ charges high premiums and offers high cost insurance plans to it’s nurses? It just only makes sense a hospital with a 6 billion dollar yearly profit and CEO making 16 million a year should provide their nurses with more. Especially after claiming they treat their nurses well. They definitely do not provide their nurses well.

      If you work in healthcare you should be more acquainted with getting reliable information. Maybe speak to the nurses and hear their stories first hand instead of just some hospital propaganda being distributed. Nurses are willing to have conversations. The hospital has only been distributing information via email and and social media. You can not have a conversation with any of the managers. The hospital has not been willing to negotiate since August 16th almost three weeks. I think it says a lot about what they are really interested in sharing. They do not want to have these conversations.

  3. At times when many hardworking people are also struggling, the public has little sympathy for the nurses. Most of us have had horrible experiences in hospitals, and while there are some exceptionally caring ones, most aren’t, and don’t look very overworked.

    • I’m sorry you had a bad experience with your nurses. Most nurses fo into the nursing profession to help people. There are always some bad sheep. How can you speak for most people? Who do you represent?

      Sometimes nurses do have smaller patients loads pending on acuity and how busy the unit might be. However, that is not typically the case. Additionally, you may see them having a good time or conversation is that while they are at their computer charting? Or eating lunch at their desk because they can not go on break so they entertain themselves during their 12 hour work day with no break?

  4. Sorry. But I actually lost all respect for nurses during covid when I witnessed first-hand how cruel some nurses were in not allowing family members to visit their dying loved ones under the guise of “Covid”. The facts are that the reason you were able to handle a higher patient load during covid is because you did not get bogged down with the horrible nuisance of your patients’ family members. It was not because of your selflessness. It was because you were able to do as you pleased with no checks and balances.

    • Nurses are not the ones who decide policy. They follow hospital policy. It’s a shame you throw your anger and frustration at them because they are the ones you see. Nurses are the inbetween. Unfortunately for them they stand on the front line, that’s who people interact with and they end up being punched from both sides. Maybe have some compassion for your nurses 🙂

    • As the above reply stated, we didn’t write the rules. But maybe we should have advocated better. Looking back, perhaps we should have fought for increased family involvement. Maybe we did fall short.

      I agree partially with what you stated. There were undoubtedly some challenging situations and experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. But remember, there were literally piles of dead people – a haunting and distressing reality that healthcare workers had to face day in and day out. We were on the front lines, and it’s true that not everyone handled the stress and emotions perfectly. In addition, we had a ridiculous workload and lacked the time to properly advocate for our patients (perhaps further supporting this article’s agenda).

      Despite all this, the majority of nurses and healthcare professionals exhibited tremendous resilience, compassion, and dedication throughout this unprecedented crisis. Many worked tirelessly without appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) or under extreme conditions to provide care for patients who were suffering. Every single media outlet, on a 24-hour cycle, showed how terrifying the disease was, and despite this, we showed up every day to fulfill our commitment to patient care.

      While there are certainly a few bad apples, it’s important to remember that the actions of a few individuals do not define the entire profession. The vast majority of nurses and healthcare providers have continued to uphold the values of compassion, empathy, and dedication, even in the face of unprecedented challenges. Their efforts should be celebrated and their sacrifices acknowledged and respected.

  5. The patients of RWJ Hospital issued the following statement on Thursday to reporters from the National Fictitious News Network:
    We are the patients of RWJ Hospital, a group consisting of hundreds of patients, who are in desperate need of round-the-clock care, and whose 1700 nurses went AWOL nearly one month ago and went on strike demanding that the bosses of RWJ take better care of their pocket books.
    We, the hospitialized patients of RWJ, are demanding our right to be cared for in our time of need, and not to be abandoned by those who should have never, ever walked out on us and forsaken us.
    According to numerous studies, and according to ordinary common sense, patients who’ve been abandoned by their nursing staffs are a lot worse off than patients who haven’t been abandoned by their nursing staffs, and a lot worse off than patients who are being tended to by caring, responsible and good-hearted nurses.
    It appears that the striking nurses of RWJ have heard about patients in other hospitals who’ve managed to miraculously survive staff shortages, which prompted the striking nurses of RWJ to say to themselves, “Hey, maybe OUR patients will ALSO overcome all odds and miraculously survive this nursing staff shortage!”
    Sadly for us – the patients – it is disheartening to find ourselves feeling like a bunch of zeros as we continue to battle our ailments without the assistance of our nurses and without the proper care.
    We urge our apathetic nurses who’ve abandoned us to come back to their senses, and to tend to our pressing health needs.
    Additionally, we need our elected officials to speak out on our behalf.
    NJ residents can make their voices heard by calling Gov. Murphy’s office directly and demanding that the Governor intervene on our behalf, and that he see to it that this egregious dereliction of duty cease immediately, and that the deserters promptly return to their posts and resume their life-saving responsibilities and chores.
    We are all in this fight together.
    In solidarity,
    Sincerely yours,
    The Abandoned Patients of RWJ

    • Don’t you think nurses are just regular people like you working to get their paychecks? Would you rather they quit altogether and find a new career?

    • The nurses have gone on strike to demand safer staffing for the benefit of all their patients. This is legal and allowed in the unfair labor act. A strike is not a first choice that anybody wants it’s a last resort when people feel they have come to a difficult situation that requires stronger action. No nurses wants to be unemployed and lose their health insurance. Some nurses have chronic medical conditions and some have been on disability leave prior to the strike and lost their insurance as well. Nobody wants this, it is coming out of desperation cause by work overload and burnout. This is because the hospital is not making an effort to help their nurses have proper coverage.

      The hospital claims they are invested in the nurses and belong them out to maintain nurses, if that is the case the nurses would not be out on the streets. It’s misleading information.

      If you feel your nurses are apathetic, why not go to a hospital that has sympathetic nurses?

      Do you know that awards are give to hospitals largely because of nursing excellence and certifications in specialty areas? The high quality care is largely due to the nurses which speaks a lot about them.

      It’s a shame people like yourself do not recognize and/or appreciate what nurses invest and give up for YOU and every other patient. Maybe shadow a nurse for a day?

      Lastly, I agree with you getting the governor involved. Governor Murphy is staying neutral. He does not care for the patients or the nurses. So if you care for either of them, why don’t you give him a holler? That would benefit all of us!

  6. Nurses, physicians, EMT’s etc. are dealing with people who need constant, non-stop care. When you become a nurse or a doctor or an EMT, you better be willing to give up your time and sleep etc., and be willing to do everything in your power, [and be willing to be proactive, without waiting for scheduled appointments or signed checks] to heal the patient and to ease his situation. Good sense, sound judgment and a good heart dictate that you never walk out on patients. Medical personnel can not operate the same way others operate, and they can’t just go on strikes, and walk out on their patients because of low pay, whether the medical personnel’s grievances are legit or not. That’s just simple logic. This is what the heart dictates, and no doubt this is what the Torah dictates.
    To answer your last question, doctors, nurses and EMTs who do not perform their jobs to the max, with ultimate sacrifice, would be better off seeking a different career, because the harm caused by them is often catastrophic and fatal, [and often goes unnoticed by the public.] Let others, who are willing to accept the full yoke of responsibility and sacrifice upon themselves, fill their void.

    • You are correct nurses deal with difficult patients and that’s what they agree to do, and they do invest themselves into the care they provide. Just as most paid jobs that have hours, nurses are entitled to the shifts and hours they sign up for. Even with that, nurses do stay overtime and invest extra when needed and don’t just walk away and abandon patients. That is unethical and illegal. They selflessly give up their time for all their patients (yes there are always exceptions who do not just as in any job). Nurses do not operate like a typical job.

      Nurses are legally allowed to walk out of the hospital and strike as an Unfair Labor Practice fighting for safe staffing! The nurses are not striking for money. This This means they are fighting for YOU, so they can provide YOU with better care. With a limited number of nurses, all patient care is compromised, as a nurse is limited to x amount they can handle. During a strike there are travel/replacement nurses that take over the striking nurse and therefore, there are always nurses tending to the patients. Additionally, the hospital has overstaffed the amount of nurses they have during the strike.

      If you do research and look at statistics, nurses are leaving bedside at an extremely high rate and if thia continues, nursing issues will be much worse than it is now. The nurses are fighting for bettering nursing overall.

  7. According to RWJ/St. Barnabas website they are the highest paid
    Nurses in NJ.
    If you Don’t like RWJ Hospital get a job elsewhere.
    Stop Terrorising the Patients.

    • Why don’t you do independent research and not rely on a hospital that wants to promote their agenda. When was their data last updated? Are all nurses highest paid or a specific specialty nurse?

      Hackensack gets paid highest in Jersey!

      Additionally, just a few months ago knowing that negotiations were on the way, have a raise specifically to the new nurses only to show they have “highest paid” in NJ. Which does not apply to all nurses.

      Fact check before you just mention a biased website.

  8. Nurses do not make noise when they are working:), maybe ask the hospital administration to get to the negotiating table and get us off the street. The nurses do not want to be outside and make noise they want to be back and care for their patients. If the noise is an issue, there are abundance of hospitals in NJ! Or, you can do your part by helping the nurses by calling Murphy and signing the petition so that they get back inside!

  9. I don’t work for RWJ and don’t know the whole story, but I am a nurse and disagree with the opponents of this article. If I had unsafe ratios, I would rather strike than risk my patients’ lives and license. Sometimes, you have to take a step back to take a step forward. According to the arguments, we are expected to show up to work without appropriate resources and take on whatever workload we are given, no matter what. I can’t imagine anyone in any profession doing that, especially when lives are at stake.

    It’s no secret that the healthcare system is greedy. But between the nurses and hospital executives, who do you think is more greedy?

    Obviously, I would like a fatter paycheck and less work. Nursing is a passion, but it’s also a job. It’s nice to have a lighter workload to focus more on fewer patients. Still, every day, I and countless other nurses go to work and give it our all. We clean up patients after they pass, making them presentable to their families. We take the brunt of families that need to vent in stressful situations. We are the ones advocating for patients alongside, or in place of, their families. We run codes, perform CPR, alert the medical team when something feels off, provide warm blankets, ensure the food is right, provide wound care, get water, update families, fix the TV, and question questionable medical orders. We deal with patients who are confused and combative. We go way outside the boundaries of our duties to make our patients safe and comfortable, often going through a 12-hour and 45-minute shift without a lunch break. And, at the end of the day, after giving it our all, we think: “Did I leave my patients in a good state? What could I have done better today? Did I miss anything? I hope [name redacted for HIPAA] in room 214B is still OK.”

    The nurse’s role has evolved immensely over the years. We have been given more work and more responsibility. And yes, the paycheck did get bigger, but not enough to reflect the increased workload. As many others have written, nurses are too often overworked and underpaid. Hospitals have shown a trend of increased revenue and profitability over the past few decades. Hospital executives have enjoyed a much larger portion of that than the nurses, so why are you not upset at the executives? Part of the money being reinvested should be allocated to increasing the number of staff. Fact: it would save lives.

  10. My perception, which might seem cynical to some, is that the hospital administration is advocating for its interests and the nurses’ union for its interests. Solidarity is a nice idea; but as unions practice it, it’s not a two-way street. Why should I care about the nurses’ terms and conditions of employment when they don’t seem to care for my own? The patient safety aspect is concerning, but certainly the union knows that and inflates that component of negotiations to the extent that it hinges its public campaign on that. The thing is, if patient safety was legitimately at issue, hospital admins would be just as concerned as the union if not more so, for it is the hospital that bears the burden of that liability.

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