August 11, 2009, 7:49 pm

That Old Mad Season Comes Around

bradyIt’s here!

The pre-season for the NFL starts this week and needless to say, I have my Brady Quinn jersey and my orange and brown pom poms ready to go!  My team resides where my quarterback plays, so right now my team is the Cleveland Browns.

That’s Brady Quinn on the right. That other guy is Derek Anderson, also a quarterback.

I’m sure Derek is really nice and cool and plays a decent game or he wouldn’t be in the NFL, but can I make a teensy-weensy request? Send him somewhere else.

Brady should start for the Browns. ‘Nuff said.



If it’s Tuesday, it must be Grand Rounds, as DrRich at the Covert Rationing Blog takes over hosting honors this week.

It’s another great edition, made even better by DrRich’s unique voice in the commentary!


Here’s a carnival I just rediscovered! SurgXperiences is up at Reflections in a Head Mirror.


It’s that time again.

Time to renegotiate the contract between my hospital and the nurses.

It’s a time of over-the-top threats of take-aways and over-the-top attempts to agitate the nurses.

It’s a contest between good and evil that makes Lord of the Rings look like a segment of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

It’s a time when the Administration threatens big bad stuff like taking away all funding for the nurses’ PPO health plan and the union counters by sending out an email with the cell phone number of the head negotiator and rallying all the nurses to harass call and make their opinions known.


Now, I’m watching this from the outside in; I’m merely a staff nurse who does not sit at the negotiating table.

And I will say that despite the fact that my union funds are sometimes spent on propositions I do not believe in, candidates I do not support and occasionally actions I do not condone, my working conditions are pretty tolerable (in the ER)  and my paycheck is fantastic. So while I have issues with my union, I have to give credit where it is due.

I actually started to get caught up in the “oh, like hell they are!” mentality.  Adrenaline climbing, “how DARE they!” running through my brain. Hell, there is even a flyer hung in the nurses’ bathroom, three feet in front of the commode exhorting us to come to a “picketing meeting” to discuss the evil Administration!

Then I started to wonder.

Why does it have to be like this?


Why the game playing?

First of all, it’s obvious to anyone who stops to think about it that the administration throws out “No funding for the PPO” type announcements because (a) health care is a hugely emotional topic and (b) it takes the focus off of other things they may not want to talk about, like salaries or work force conditions.

And it sure helps rally the troops from the Union standpoint when they do that! Tally ho! Grab the picket signs! Meet and agitate!


What would happen if the administration came to the table and laid everything out, truthfully and transparently. “Welcome, Union. Here is where we stand financially. Here is where we are hoping to be in 2012. We value our nurses and want to be able to provide the best for them within the budget we have to work with.  What is the best way for us to do that?”

(That sound was 50 union reps having syncopal episodes.)

But it works both ways, too. How about the Union coming to the table in a similar fashion: “Well, Administration, there are certain benefits that our nurses have said are very important to them. We recognize that there are budgetary issues. How can we work together to maintain those benefits within the budget that you have (truthfully and transparently) put before us?”


No, I haven’t been smoking anything.

I’ve worked for hospitals where I was not represented by a union, and they give the very barest minimum they can to keep up with the local unionized hospitals. And I’ve watched Sutter try to decimate the nurses on the other side of the Bay.

So, in the end, I guess it really is all about the Administration wanting to take away everything they possibly can and the union fighting to keep everything we have and add a little more.

Does anyone else find that sad, or is it just me?


  • Rachel

    August 11, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Football. Oh yeah.

    Employees should be treated well, no matter what, but especially in health care and education. It shouldn’t be a political mess, but it is, and that kind of robs patients and students in some way, doesn’t it?

  • Ken O

    August 12, 2009 at 12:48 am

    I have no clue what that stuff about American Football meant. 😉

    Ref your union dues, I’m British, and our union dues split into 2 parts:-
    1) Funds which are spent on union activites (running the union, possibly benevolent funds for retired workers in the trade).
    2) A political levy. This is actually optional, although the default is “opted in” to pay it. That said, the chance to opt out of making payments to political activities you disagree with does exist.
    Do I take it that’s not the same in the USA?

  • beastarzmom

    August 12, 2009 at 7:13 am

    I’ll be your dissenter here. There are always 2 sides… I have often thought that unions achieved their purposes back in the 50s and 60s. I’ve worked in two non union hospitals and found the atmosphere SO MUCH nicer. The benefits etc were just fine, and we felt like a team. The union hospital I’m at now has great people, both sides of the fence, and they gripe and bicker at each other despite better pay and benefits than anywhere near us. I agree unions had a purpose and did a great job, but I think they’re out of control now, and detrimental to good working conditions! The opposite of their purpose. It’s too bad…

  • KatieBeeRN

    August 12, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Hmmm, imagine if your proposal for civil negotiations and transparency of the issues in order to come to consensus was parlayed into a respectful and transparent discussion of the concerns and ideas of health (insurance) reform. Imagine if instead of shouting, chanting, and booing and other antics while the video cameras rolled, legislators and their constituents had reasonable discussions about the concerns, fears and desires for a quality functioning health care system.

    In terms of unions, sometimes I wonder if the rabble rousing is a self-preservation behavior, that they have to prove that admin is evil and they are the savior?

  • Ultimate82

    August 12, 2009 at 10:01 am

    I’m actually not a fan of unions for that reason. It seems to makes the work environment unecessarily confrontational.

  • DonC

    August 12, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Kim, as an ED manager, I like the alternative to the current framework in which contract negogiations take place where you work. My experience has taught me that just because you work at a union hospital, doesn’t mean your pay will be better than a nonunion hospital. My fundamental belief about unions is that the successful unionization reflects a failure of hospital management to take the time to listen to its staff. Personally, I have an open door policy and am accessible to the staff that I work with. I have a reputation for being fair but firm.I believe that if more nurse leaders/managers operated with a similar MO, there would be less unionized hospitals.

  • onethruzero

    August 13, 2009 at 7:57 am

    As a nurse who has been on both sides of the table (one as a Union rep, now as a member of mgt.) I can say we ALL wish for that nirvanah type meeting where everyone sits together singing Kumbaya (sp?) but it just doesn’t happen – why? I’ve come to see after years of the dance that it is mainly due to the posturing of the Union leadership (from the state level not from our own facility) – they are pushing a statewide or even national agenda and want to use our hospital in their game – they push for things that will elevate their status as negotiators rather than trying to have honest disucssions about what it is that OUR nurses really want. I was a huge union fan but after witnessing our last contract negotiation – not so much anymore.

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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