New York, NY – The New York State Nurses Association [NYSNA] represents more than 42,000 nurses in New York State, and is New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses.
In July, NYSNA announced the election of Nancy Hagans, RN, CCRN, as the new president.
Hagans has an impressive background and career. Ms. Hagans is a nurse and critical care expert who was first elected to NYSNA’s Board in 2015. She was elected by the Board to the position of Treasurer in 2019 and is an active member of the union’s Social Justice Committee.
She is a native of Haiti and began her career as a surgical intensive care nurse at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn in 1990. In 1993 she became NYSNA’s local bargaining unit president at the hospital. Currently, Hagans is the NYSNA Resource Nurse providing direct representation to NYSNA members at Maimonides. She is also a trustee of the NYSNA Benefits Plan overseeing NYSNA health plan operations, Executive Council President of the 1,000-member bargaining unit, as well as a member of the Maimonides Staffing and Staff Development Committee.
LaborPress sat down with Hagans to learn more about her career and thoughts about current developments in the nursing field.
LP: What made you want to become a nurse?
NH: I’m one of ten children. Caring for others was something I was used to, when it comes to my grandparents, or an uncle or aunt. I’m the third oldest so I was taking care of younger siblings also. Then, when I started college I wanted to be a lawyer. But I started taking biology classes and really liked it and decided to become a nurse. Also, my dad got very ill and I would go to the hospital and see nurses taking care of him. I said nurses are very compassionate; I want to be a nurse, and I never looked back.
LP: What would you say to others who are interested in the medical field as a profession?
NH: I would encourage them into the medical field. Our power is to heal others, and also we bring communities together. Especially disadvantaged communities. We need healthier communities. [We need to] teach younger people not to drink and smoke; also obesity is a big problem. During COVID, in the Black and Brown communities, there was a lack of care. I always encourage young people to go into the profession to make a better world. We are one of the most trusted professions.
LP: What is the biggest challenge facing the union and its members today?
NH: The biggest challenge is to be able to go to work in a safe environment. An environment that has proper PPE [Personal Protective Equipment]. In the beginning, we lost members because we didn’t have proper PPE. Today, some still don’t have N95 masks every time they visit a patient. Many of the nurses are still physically and mentally challenged post COVID and still can’t go back to work. There are members that witnessed the loss of human life, patients we couldn’t save. Psychologically we don’t want to lose people. We want to save everyone. Sometimes people don’t want to think about what we go through when we lose a life. We want to celebrate a life.
LP: What are the key parts of the recently passed safe staffing law, passed in 2021?
NH: The key part is, for the first time hospitals will be accountable for staffing ratios. We will have a team for the proper ratio. Without the proper team we can’t provide excellent care. Every patient is a VIP. I believe healthcare is a human right. Now, hospital administrators have to be accountable for the ratio – now it’s the law. It took us a long time to have this law passed. We live in the richest country in the world – how can we not provide proper care to every patient? Now there’s a legal mandate. It’s a huge victory, for nurses, for our 1199[SEIU] partners, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, and more.
LP: How do you feel about your new position as president of NYSNA?
NH: I’m honored to serve the 42,000 members, and humbled that they chose me. I will continue to serve and advocate for the members of New York State and New Jersey.
Hagans lives in Staten Island, and has two daughters, one in high school and one in college.