Jill Furillo, RN, joined the labor movement at 19, and she's worked as an emergency room nurse, an organizer, and the bargaining director of the U.S.'s largest union for nurses.
Now she is joining the New York State Nurses Association as their new executive director.
As government relations director of the California Nurses Association, Furillo successfully shepherded the country's first law setting safe nurse-to-patient ratios through the California legislature.
"There's a crisis in New York hospitals. Administrators are forcing some nurses to care for 9, 10, or even more patients at once," said Patricia DiLillo, RN, president of the New York State Nurses Association. "That's too many."
"Jill knows how to unite nurses to take on big hospital chains and pass laws that protect patients. Our board of directors hired her to bring that expertise to New York," DiLillo said.
Furillo got her start in nursing as an emergency room nurse in New York City.
She joined the staff of the California Nurses Association in 1994, and is leaving a post as the national bargaining director of National Nurses United.
"New York nurses are tough and compassionate," said Furillo. "I know - I was one. I've seen them do extraordinary things to take care of their patients."
"NYSNA nurses are tapping into that energy to build a stronger union and fight for patients."
NEW COURSE FOR 37,000 MEMBER UNION
NYSNA represents 37,000 nurses across the state of New York - including the 8,000 nurses of the New York City HHC system, Montefiore Medical Center, Mt. Sinai, New York-Presbyterian, Maimonides, many other hospitals big and small, clinics, dialysis centers, schools and home health nurses.
Until recently, nurse managers dominated NYSNA, and frontline nurses had little say in their union.
That is changing. The union's transformation began in fall 2011, when nurses voted for new leadership by a two-to-one margin.
That same team - New York Nurses for Staffing, Security, and Strength - swept all offices in September of this year, this time by an 80 percent margin.
In May of this year, nurses voted for new union rules that let bedside nurses set the direction for their union for the first time.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, NYSNA's leaders launched a disaster relief program, and hundreds of nurses volunteered - going door to door in the Rockaways, Coney Island, and Staten Island to care for stranded patients with urgent and unattended medical needs.
Those same nurses say that with the evacuation of Bellevue, Coney Island, the VA, and NYU Langone Hospitals, there is a hidden health care crisis in the city. There's currently no Level One Trauma Center south of 58th Street in Manhattan, and the city is short 2,000 beds.
"There's no question the mayor's office needs to do more to address the Sandy health care crisis," Furillo says.
"Corporate greed is destroying health care," Furillo says. "New York nurses have responded heroically to this crisis. They have shown time and again that they're ready to take that greed head on and make New York the second state in the nation to pass safe nurse-to-patient ratios."
The New York State Nurses Association is the voice for nursing in the Empire State. With more than 37,000 members, it is the state's largest professional association and union for registered nurses. It supports nurses and nursing practice through education, research, legislative advocacy and collective bargaining.