An international group of nurses met in San Francisco on June 22 to form Global Nurses United (GNU). The formation of the nursing group was spearheaded by members of National Nurses United (NNU), which is based in Oakland, California, and represents 185,000 RNs in the United States.
Nurses worldwide are seeing the often profound public health consequences of unemployment, unrelenting policies of austerity, poverty, and price gouging—and leaders who put profits ahead of access to basic health care services. Some countries with public health care systems are cutting services to save money.
GNU, an affiliate of NNU, is “the first international structure that deals with direct-care nursing issues. We address the obstacles that nurses face in caring for patients on a daily basis,” says Deborah Burger, president of NNU. Because nurses work with patients one-on-one, they get an intimate view of patients’ distress, in both wealthy and poor nations. GNU believes that universal health care should be a human right. The organization aims to promote reliable patient care with adequate nurse-to-patient ratios and safe workplaces. “We want to promote healthy systems that provide more care for less money,” says Burger.
GNU supports a financial transaction tax on stock market trades, which 40 other countries use to help fund health care. The United States had a similar tax until 1966. NNU members joined Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) when he reintroduced the Inclusive Prosperity Act (HR 1579) on April 17. The bill proposes a 0.5% tax on each $100 stock trade. “It could raise $350 billion a year to improve health care and education,” says Burger. The tax would apply only to Wall Street firms and high-volume stock trades.
Other projects of GNU focus on stopping the “poaching” of nurses from foreign countries. The United States, for example, doesn't invest enough in training nursing students, according to Burger. Instead, hospitals import nurses trained in the Philippines and Caribbean countries, sometimes drawing an entire class of graduates away from their homeland. This creates shortages of nurses in those countries.
Nurses from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Ireland, Israel, the Philippines, South Africa, South Korea, and the United States participated in the initial meeting of GNU.—Carol Potera