More than 7,000 nurses returned to work in New York City Thursday morning from a three-day strike after the New York State Nurses Association reached a tentative deal with two hospitals. Nurses will vote on the deal next week.

The hospitals, Mount Sinai Hospital and Montefiore Medical Center, agreed to the nursing association’s conditions for safe staffing and enforcement measures.

“New staffing ratios take effect immediately in a historic breakthrough for hospitals that refused to consider ratios that nurses have been demanding for decades,” New York State Nurses Association President Nancy Hagans said in a statement.

At Montefiore, this means a 1 to 1 patient-nurse ratio in the emergency department and a 5 to 1 ratio for acute care nurses, Hagans also said. Nurses will receive financial compensation if these staffing levels are breached.

Montefiore also promised to open closed areas of the hospital to get patients out of the hallways, according to The Associated Press. Before the nurses went on strike, the hospital offered to raise pay 19.1% and hire 170 nurses.

The strike pushed other New York City hospitals to make similar deals.

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The New York State Nurses Association said the strike was important to ensure conditions that New York nurses had previously been denied.

“Two-thirds of RNs across the country say they are planning to leave the profession in the next two years, with understaffing leaving caregivers burnt out and at their breaking point,” the union said. The COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated this understaffing.

Nurses were often forced to work extra hours and skip meals and bathroom breaks due to staffing conditions, the AP reported. With the nurses’ absence, Mount Sinai and Montefiore spent three days postponing elective surgeries, sending ambulances and patients to other hospitals, and relying on administrators to fulfill nurse functions.

The strike was first and foremost to protect patient safety, according to the New York State Nurses Association.

“Today, we can return to work with our heads held high, knowing that our victory means safer care for our patients and more sustainable jobs for our profession,” Hagans said.

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