The widespread burnout running rampant among the nursing community came to a head in New York City on early Monday morning. Hundreds of striking nurses from the New York State Nurses Association took to Madison Avenue, camping out in front of Mount Sinai hospital demanding more sustainable working conditions.

The movement was the largest nursing strike to hit the city in decades. Yet, it was not higher wages the professionals were seeking—instead, they demanded improved conditions for both nurses and patients.

Union representatives reported that emergency room nurses were forced to care for as many as 18 patients at a time—with many of the suffering often being relegated to hallways in the absence of any available rooms. Nurses also claimed that while the pandemic certainly exacerbated understaffing at hospitals, the problem had existed in the nursing community for years beforehand—with no action taken. Now, medical professionals are demanding change.

Nancy Hagans, President of the New York State Nursing Association, said “Our No. 1 issue is a crisis of staffing… It is an issue that our employers have ignored.”

Nurses at the protests reported the number one priority is achieving an enforceable nurse-to-patient ratio—as current industry standards are not regularly enforced. Beyond burning out medical professionals, many nurses also point out that these demands are fundamentally unsafe.

John Andriel, a striking nurse, claimed, “The patient-to-nurse ratios are unsafe…each time I go into work, truly I’m scared for my license.”

In a statement, Mayor Eric Adams said the city was communicating with hospitals, but warned of further strain on medical systems. Governor Kathy Hochul called for arbitration so both parties could reach a swift resolution.

Patients and nurses are both put at risk when hospitals fail to employ innovative strategies to remedy the nursing shortage. To achieve a sustainable nurse-to-patient ratio, hospitals must look outward—and recognize that staffing solutions like foreign-educated nurses offer a clear solution to understaffed, under-resourced facilities.

To read more about the current strike, click here for the full story from the New York Times.