- ▼ February (2)
- ► 2010 (12)
- ► 2009 (28)
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
The New York Times recently published a blog article by Theresa Brown, R.N., in which she describes the sometimes alarming nature of walls within the medical profession and how these walls can sometimes cause unbearable tension in hospital hallways. Any yet, her post relays the story of what happens when one of those walls come down, allowing nurses and other medical professionals to unite in a common task: caring for their patients.
Brown's piece opens by invoking Robert Frost's poem "Fences," which introduces the theme of walls between neighbors. She then talks about how areas in which nurses work in oncology are separated. She writes, "There's 'med onc' and 'surg onc,' and never the twain shall meet."
All of this was true for her until she met a patient with a blood disease who needed an immediate operation to repair a hole in her intestine. What followed that discovery was a story in which she and a surgeon were able to come together and smoothly and efficiently care for the patient. She found that after that experience, the walls that were constant throughout the hospital were not so strong, and she was able to surmount them in order to care for another human.
The entire story is worth a read, which you can see here, and it got me thinking: what are others ways that nurses can unite and break down barriers within the profession? What are some walls that continue to blockade various nurses from fully uniting as a group and exerting their influence in the health care world?
For me, as someone who often writes about nursing schools, the gender issue is the one that most greatly affects the acceptance of males in the nursing world, and is thus a huge wall to overcome. Fortunately, there has been much headway made towards making male nurses more welcome in the profession, especially in how nursing programs have shifted their admission materials to be more attuned to the needs of male nursing students. As this has happened, we have seen the number of male nurses dramatically. Of course, there is much more we can do.
But what? When you see these walls in your nursing profession, what ideas do you have for continuing to break them down and unite together?
Share your opinion
You can post your comments anonymously if you like or use any name you choose. We are not interested in knowing who you are but what you think!!
I have been a nurse for just over ten years. I earned my degree with the support of my wife and financial assistance for the GI bill. I was drawn to the profession of nursing after a brief exposure to an advanced course in field triage while serving in the army. I find the human body fascinating and am always learning. I also was attracted to the profession for all the usual reasons that bring people to the profession of nursing. I enjoy the reward of giving to my fellow man.
I believe that health care and the advocacy of safe care is the foundation of nursing that was started by our founders like Florence Nightingale. Our practice act calls for our profession to advocate for our patients and against practices that puts their safety in jeopardy.
The healthcare industry has for the last twenty plus years constructed an environment to maximize profits at the expense of patient safety and our profession. We as nurses have stood by fairly quit and allowed for this to happen.
Recently, I and others voiced concerns related to patient safety and working conditions at Summit Hospital a hospital owned by Healthcare Corporation of America. Our issues included the working of nurse with approximately six month of experience for more than twenty four hours straight. This particular nurse did volunteer to work these hours but in my opinion should not have been ask to do so. She is a great nurse for her limited experience but put her license and the safety of her patients at risk that night. The manager of the unit failed her and the patients in her charge. Study after study has shown that the error rate goes off the chart after twelve hours. I and fifteen other nurses also expressed to management our concerns over the floating policies that were sending unqualified nurses to our unit. We noted several instances were these nurse made errors that put the patient in potential jeopardy. We also expressed our concerns over ratios of 3 to 1 becoming the norm in the unit when 2 to 1 is considered the norm in intensive care across most of the country.
We submitted these concerns in writing and signed by sixteen nurses from our unit. Management responded by holding meetings with a group of employees that they chose and their representatives which included the director of HR, our unit manager and the director of nursing. The meetings at their start gave us some hope that our issues might be taken seriously and dealt with. It was soon apparent that would not be the case and these meetings quickly moved away from our issues to their issues. They would agree that their were problems but would not put any solutions into writing, stating that they needed to be able to remain flexible and made statements like we will try instead of we will.
At around this same time I was informed of an organization called the NNOC or National Nurses Organizing Committee, http://www.calnurses.org/nnoc/about-nnoc.html that was holding meetings in the Nashville area to organize nurses to advocate for patients and against many of the problems that I expressed above. I met with their organizer and felt that their movement was something that I could support. I became a member of the NNOC and began attending meetings on a regular basis. I also began placing invitations to attend meetings in the break room of my unit and speaking with interested coworkers, while on break, about the need to organize and advocate for our patients and our profession.
After a short period of time I was ask by my manager about my involvement with the NNOC and my desire to form a union at Summit Hospital. I did not deny my association and did not hide my opinion as to why I felt that organizing was needed. I also informed them that I had the right as outlined in the National Labor Relation Act. The nursing staff at Summit was then subjected to mandatory anti union meetings and letter sent to our homes and to our email accounts at work. I was required to attend meetings with the hospital attorney and informed that because I was a charge nurse I was considered management and could not associate with the NNOC. I contested that I was a member of management but submitted to their demands to end my association with the NNOC. I never attended another meeting or recruited for the cause after that meeting. I did however continue to operate a blog, http://nurseadvocates.blogspot.com/ , that advocated for reform of the healthcare system and employee rights to organize. I did not use computers at work for this endeavor and did not use my real name on the blog or use any other names that would tell a reader where I worked or who I worked for.
I was ultimately terminated from Summit Medical Center on June 11th, 2008 for what I was told was the operation of a blog. I was given no specifics of what about the blog was grounds for my termination despite my asking. I appealed my termination through the hospitals employment dispute resolution process, attempting to get clarification as to what about my blog was cause for my termination. The peer panel dispute process was a sham. The panel as outlined by the hospitals policy was to be made up of my peers, who were “not familiar with the problem or have a close relationship with any of the parties involved”. The panel was anything but and was made up of persons who had expressed an open hostility to my rights to organize and to freely associate with the NNOC in the past. Two of the panel members were charge nurses from the ER also under the supervision of my manager, who had terminated me. These two persons were also at the meeting with the hospitals attorney and expressed anti union sentiment. Another panel member was a person who was well aware of my personal views related to unions and the right to organize and had been present at private settings outside the hospital were I had expressed my opinions related to the issues that started all this. This puts three of the five panel members in clear violation of the policy. I then was refused the right to seek any clarification as to what about the blog was grounds for my termination despite that being the stated reason for the panel. I was not given the right to hear the reasons as stated by my manager and the director of HR.
I am writing this because I believe that my fundamental right to due process has been violated. This is a right to work state and right or wrong that gives Summit the right to do as the please when it comes to hiring and firing of employees but most people believe and Summit attempts to mislead their employees that they are fair and just when it comes to matters of employee issues.
If Summit is allowed to get away with this and is not challenged then patients are at risk. Health care workers need to be free to advocate for safety for their patients and if they are scared into submission then patients will suffer.
Join me in fighting for our rights to free association and to advocate for our patients as our practice act requires. Support the employee free choice act, http://www.freechoiceact.org/page/s/aflcio and send a message to Summit and other corporate bullies that feel you are entitled to the rights they give you and nothing more.
Also visit sited like Leap for Safety and support petitions to mandate stronger legislation that will ensure a safer environment. Visit http://www.leapforpatientsafety.org/ to get involved.
I truly believe that our healthcare system is in dire trouble and we as nurses have a responsibility to get involved. Please join the fight. Your family may one day depend on what we do today.