October 5, 2007, 2:03 pm

With Our Arms Around the Future and Our Backs Up Against the Past

legome

Okay, what is up with this thing called Facebook!

I knew it existed, but all of a sudden everyone who is anyone is over there!

I’ve been Super-Poked, high-fived, cheered, had a spell cast on me, been invited to become a vampire, received a bouquet of tulips and have an invite for a mocha! I’ve never had a better social life, and I don’t have to leave my house or get out of my sweats!

This morning my daughter informed me that I could throw a cow at someone if I wanted to! Uh…okay….just let me know if any of you want a cow and I’ll send one over!

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(Yes, that is a Moody Blues lyric up there. Another case of a lyric stimulating a post…)

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Nurses

There is going to be a strike here in Northern California in a few days.

Nurses who work for Sutter Health facilities will be walking out in protest. Protesting a lack of concern over patient care and safety/staffing issues. Protesting the attempt to decrease health care benefits and undercut retirement security for RNs.

There are rumors some hospitals will lock the nurses out for a longer period if they strike.

We’ve been recipients of Sutter Health care in the last year or two. Pardon my lack of subtlety, but Sutter Health can go to hell.

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And no, I don’t work for them.

I did, once. They moved into the San Francisco Bay Area and took over facility after facility. They promised that together, the associated hospitals would be stronger, better and enable nurses to give appropriate care to their patients.

They promised that they would not cut patient services. They did a publicity campaign that makes Hillary Clinton look like she is selling Girl Scout cookies on a corner in comparison. We (the community) actually voted for them to become involved in the local community hospital.

And the benefits! Nurses could move in-between Sutter facilities without losing pay. The salaries were good. The benefits were good. Of course, they were good before Sutter took over and they stayed that way. For awhile.

But now, in a time when we have an unprecedented shortage of nurses, Sutter Health decides that nurses aren’t worth much. They staff their facilities so the nurses can’t give the standard of care required, and then make it personal by cutting their benefits. Never mind that those 25 – 30 year nurses are the backbone of the nursing organization and there is no one to take their place. Just pull their retirement benefits out from under them.

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Oh yeah, they’ll tell you money is tight and reimbursements are down and blah, blah, blah.

That doesn’t stop the virtual non-stop commercials that Sutter is running with nurses talking about what wonderful care they are able to give through Sutter. How much money goes into that promotion?

That doesn’t stop the glossy magazines/advertisements and newsletters that arrive at my home on a regular basis. Who pays for those?

What will it take for these corporate hospital executives to understand that their facilities exist to provide nursing care and to do that they need nurses!

Why wouldn’t a corporation want to be known as the place to work where nurses are concerned?

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Why do nurses have to fight so hard to get adequate staffing? And not what some idiotic staffing software says is adequate, but what the nurses believe is required for the care of the patients on a particular shift/unit? Why do we have to fight so hard to keep our benefits and a decent chance at retirement?

Back in the early ’70s, the nurses before us fought tooth and nail to gain the benefits and the salaries that we now enjoy in California. Right here in the Bay Area. There were strikes back then, too. The future of nursing was on the line and those nurses fought hard and made sacrifices so we can have the work environment we have today

Why are these same questions being asked almost forty years later?

The future of nursing is on the line now.

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I’ve never even had to take a strike vote in my entire career. Never walked a picket line in my life. My forebears in the profession did. Some of them are still working at the bedside. I have the career I have today because they were willing to take a stand.

Are we willing to take a stand today to protect nursing’s tomorrow? We are at a crossroads, a crisis-point in health care and in nursing.

Our older nursing colleagues had our backs and our patients were the beneficiaries. Our arms are around the future of our profession. Do we embrace it? Do we fight for the respect and renumeration our profession deserves? Do we understand the power this profession has? Do we “have the backs” of our patients and our future colleagues?

Maybe you don’t work for Sutter and don’t think this applies to you. Maybe you work for Tenet, or Kaiser or Catholic Healthcare West.

Eventually, when our contracts expire, this applies to us all.

The nurses of Northern California Sutter facilities are going to send a message next week. They are fighting, and sacrificing for us and for the patients we serve.

The rest of us will be watching.

Let’s hope the other health care corporations in the country are listening.

And learning.

15 Comments


  • BabsRN

    October 5, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    I agree with you completely. I’m just lost on the contract concept. Nurses work under contracts? How does that work?

    We don’t/can’t unionize here so I have no clue what any of that is about. I am completely against the corporate mindset in the larger companies (and some of the smaller ones – well in health care in general)but I guess what I’m wondering is – does this contract prevent you from voting with your feet (as in – just getting a better job)?



  • Eric

    October 5, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Sutter’s a schlocky operation wrapped in a thin candy shell of nonprofit goodness. Their takeover of the rural hospital nearest my mom’s place was coincidental with a major government project that brought a bucket of paying customers (well, a bucket of taxpayer money – these customers don’t pay for their own care, they just use a lot of it. I have been *profoundly* underwhelmed with the care there, including having my mom Life-Flighted to a more competent facility. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit that the nurses are rebelling.

    More importantly, though…..

    I wanna see you do a full shift in a stylish dress like those of your models. Nothing says comfort and convenience like a big helpin’ of polyester doubleknit. C’mon, make Tuesday a Dacron Day and wear one of those for a grueling marathon of modern nursing care. Or, better still, try it in July….

    Eric, Imaginging The FUNK Coming Off Those Gals After A Hectic Day Swathed In Polyester Splendour



  • beastarzmom

    October 6, 2007 at 8:38 am

    Afraid this is one of those few areas where we are not on the same frequency at all… I’ve never worked at a unionized shop and that may weigh heavily in my opinion. But I don’t believe you are getting the straight story on the issues. The thinly veiled ulterior motives here are repugnant to me. The union desperately wants to negotiate with Sutter AS A WHOLE. (Think of all the enrollment spike if they could make that happen!) And since Sutter is not yet even close to being “WHOLE”, it can’t work. Everyone loses. There are several hospitals with unionized nursing staff. Many are not. They all have their own boards, governance, bargaining, etc. etc. They all answer to different chiefs. I see occasional signs of “merging” coming down the road, but ironically, that’s also one of the things the union protests. Which way do they want it? No clarity there. For something that would benefit the nurses directly, maybe. (totally resisting the “when I was your age” type remarks here! There are a few of us still around who remember years past and how scary some of those conditions were…)
    Sorry – I can’t support walking out on patient care for an agenda like theirs this time.
    (No, I’m not in management, either.)



  • Mother Jones RN

    October 7, 2007 at 9:31 am

    I support nurses who stand up against greedy hospitals that don’t give damn about their patients. Theses hospitals only focus on their healthy bottom line, not the health and welfare of their patients. Some people ask, “How can nurses walkout on their patients?” Nurses who go out on strike are not walking out on their patients. Instead, nurses who don’t fight for safe patient care are abandoning their patients, as well as the nursing profession.


  • […] Kim wrote a fantastic post today on “With Our Arms Around the Future and Our Backs Up Against the Past”Here’s ONLY a quick extractBut now, in a time when we have an unprecedented shortage of nurses, Sutter Health decides that nurses aren’t worth much. They staff their facilities so the nurses can’t give the standard of care required, and then make it personal by … […]



  • linda-lou

    October 7, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    Kim- forget about unions and the like. I want to be your facebook friend. How can I make that happen 🙂



  • Margaret

    October 8, 2007 at 9:50 am

    Eric wrote:
    well, a bucket of taxpayer money – these customers don’t pay for their own care, they just use a lot of it

    I don’t mean to start a nasty comment war, but this comment rubs me the wrong way. I find it insinuating that those people are receiving something they do not deserve, and I hope the comment was not meant this way.
    Anybody with health insurance doesn’t pay for the actual care they receive. It gets paid for by their insurance company.



  • beastarzmom

    October 8, 2007 at 7:50 pm

    Mother Jones –
    How do you figure hospitals don’t care about their patients? Without patients they are out of business. With hospitals out of business, nurses are out of jobs and patients search around for care. Patients lose, nurses lose. It’s all lose, lose, lose. I think when true bargaining happens, everyone wins. The union and the hospitals need to get back to the table and iron it out without the dramatics.



  • Another nurse

    October 8, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    I respectfully disagree. I am a nurse who works for Sutter (non-union shop) and we are the highest paid of any hospital (including union hospitals) and we have free healthcare. Come-on. This strike isn’t about salary, benefits or staffing. It is about the CNA wanting a global contract with Sutter so they can get members. That’s it. You are not being given the straight story by the Unions. Look at all the comments here…it is obvious the Union is on board with repeat comments. I wonder who is greedy here?



  • Eric

    October 9, 2007 at 12:06 am

    I’m referring to prisoners. Sutter took over Seaside Hospital to create Sutter Coast when Pelican Bay State prison had been approved; one of the conditions of the prison siting in such a backwater was access to inpatient services. How convenient. Pelican Bay is a violent, nasty, gang-riddled facility, and Sutter sells ’em a lot of healthcare. Nothing wrong with a profit motive, but they sure weren’t interested in Crescent City before that….

    As for people with insurance not paying for their own care….the spread between my premiums and the amount of care I’ve used over the life of the plan is, admittedly, currently 65% of the money I’ve paid in – I had a high loss year a couple of years back. My mom is currently at about 15X her premiums paid in to this insurer – her Big Loss year was 25 times mine. We both pay our premiums as pre-tax deductions from our paychecks – there is no employer contribution. Horse crap we don’t pay for our own healthcare….

    E



  • Cathy Glasson

    October 9, 2007 at 9:31 am

    Kim, I’d love to “friend” you on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=721952574

    Also, I hope you’ll join the VCVN Facebook group and I’ll appoint you as an officer. We’re a fledging Facebook group, so we need all the help we can get. The group URL is: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=17249697512

    And to anyone else, please feel free to add me as a friend and join the group.



  • smalltownRN

    October 9, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    As long as people get sick there will be a need for hospitals and as long as there are hospitals they will need someone to care for the sick that enter their doors. What needs to be determined are who are those people caring for the sick. Do we let the hospitals dictate the level of care and standard of care that a patient should be entitled to? There are standards of care out there for a reason. For the safety of the patient if we allow the hospitals to erode those standards then what kind of care do the patients recieve. And don’t tell me what they don’t know won’t hurt them….because it does. I have seen it. Kim, you say you have never walked a picket line….well I have…on many occassions…I have walked yes for improvements to my benefit plans, but it has been primarily for nurse/patient ratios, health and safety issues, shift premimums, responsibility pay…..when it is just me and another RN running the unit and I have to call the shots…you bet I should get responsibility pay for that…..when I have worked night shift after night shift so my patients aren’t left with a less qualified staff memeber then yes I should be entitled to my benefits. When I read about insurance companies making record profits while they are laying off staff and giving their CEO exhorbitant wage increase….yes I will shout play…..



  • smalltownRN

    October 9, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    As long as people get sick there will be a need for hospitals and as long as there are hospitals they will need someone to care for the sick that enter their doors. What needs to be determined are who are those people caring for the sick. Do we let the hospitals dictate the level of care and standard of care that a patient should be entitled to? There are standards of care out there for a reason. For the safety of the patient if we allow the hospitals to erode those standards then what kind of care do the patients recieve. And don’t tell me what they don’t know won’t hurt them….because it does. I have seen it. Kim, you say you have never walked a picket line….well I have…on many occassions…I have walked yes for improvements to my benefit plans, but it has been primarily for nurse/patient ratios, health and safety issues, shift premimums, responsibility pay…..when it is just me and another RN running the unit and I have to call the shots…you bet I should get responsibility pay for that…..when I have worked night shift after night shift so my patients aren’t left with a less qualified staff memeber then yes I should be entitled to my benefits. When I read about insurance companies making record profits while they are laying off staff and giving their CEO exhorbitant wage increase….yes I will shout fowl play…..



  • smalltownRN

    October 9, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    I have read your blog through the medical blogs and Nurse Ratchet and Nurse Jones…..I found you this time as I am doing a research paper on the nursing uniform and lo and below you show up…..small world……



  • birdyrn

    October 9, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    Thanks for a fabulous post. I will be out on the picket line tomorrow because I believe that the issues at stake at my hospital are BIG. And I philosophically support the labor movement. And I respect the opinions of the 80 percent of my coworkers to voted to authorize a strike. And for a lot of other reasons…


About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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