Fed Up Amid healthcare staff shortages, Resident Physicians and Fellows with the Committee of Interns and Residents Hold Nationwide Week of Action for Their Well-Being and Patient Care
This week, in eight cities spanning multiple coasts and over several days, frontline physicians are speaking out with their union, the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) to demand improved conditions for themselves and their patients. These events come on the heels of the first resident physician strike votes in over 30 years, the largest number of resident physicians organizing to unionize in a single year with CIR (over 3,000), an increase in physician suicides, and a massive wave of resident physician unionizing nationwide since 2019.
On the west coast, as UAW academic workers begin their strike at the University of California, the resident physicians and fellows of the University’s health system have unity break actions planned this week in Davis, San Francisco, Sylmar and Los Angeles. For the first time ever, UC resident physicians have coordinated statewide under the banner of “1UC” to bargain their contracts. Over 5,000 resident physicians work within the UC system, making this week of action the single largest coordinated effort among unionized housestaff in CIRSEIU’s history–the largest and oldest resident physician union in the U.S.
CIR physicians working at the University of Illinois in Chicago are similarly rallying with a coalition of other UIC unions to demand a fair contract. As one of the only hospitals serving the southside of Chicago—an area that already experiences healthcare inequity—residents and fellows are fighting for the working conditions, pay and resources they need to serve their patients without burning out.
In Washington D.C., resident physicians at Children’s National Hospital are holding a unity break to fight for patient caps as the hospital reaches capacity during a time of understaffing in the healthcare sector and adequate mental health services and support to address their well-being. Physicians feel that patient caps will allow them to spend more time with their young patients and provide the treatment that best reflects the quality of care that should be available at one of the “top children’s hospitals” in the country.
Last week, one the largest residency programs in New York City announced their plans to unionize with CIR and requested that Montefiore voluntarily recognize their union, with approximately 70% of housestaff signing in support. After denying their request, esidents are joining together with New York State Nursing Association nurses to call out Montefiore executives at a gala Monday night at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.
All of these actions speak to a larger pattern of resident physician organizing nationwide. A significant growth in membership in these physicians’ union, CIR, in the past year mirrors renewed interest in labor organizing in a range of industries and comes at a time when the COVID pandemic has exacerbated the core structural issues with the U.S. healthcare system and the way our doctors are trained within it. The young physicians say that residency is the foundation for physicians’ careers and that medicine should not continue its exploitative, traumatic and inequitable training culture.
The Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) is the largest house staff union in the United States. A local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), representing over 22,000 resident physicians and fellows. Our members are dedicated to improving residency training and education, advancing patient care, and expanding healthcare access for our communities.