Can (do) nurses unions help improve patient care

  1. I have heard claims from nurses' unions that they can and do help improve patient care by improving working conditions and reducing turnover, negotiating better nurse/staff ratios, eliminating mandatory overtime and floating, and giving nurses a greater voice in patient care through staffing and nurse practice committees. Is this true? If so, can anyone provide concrete examples. Thanks.
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  2. 5 Comments

  3. by   Antikigirl
    This is my first time working in a facility with the option of a nurses union. I can't afford the monthly yet, but will be joining when I can!

    Our union protects nurses in many different ways, and for our company it has worked very well! Nurses are the power behind the scenes at our hospital, has been since the begining when our hospital was founded (in a small house by a nurse to help farmers and immigrant workers in a rural area in Oregon).

    Our union helps keep wages competitive and increases yearly for cost of living increases. They also barganed for our wonderful benifits which there are numberous! . They fund further medical education for ALL employees (which is awesome for patients), and we have so many specialty committies to help patient care and funding to make changes for patients!

    For instance, a newer group is being made up for just skin care! With funding helped out by the union we can use the latest and greatest in skin care products and wound/ostomy care for our patients, and the training necessary to teach all CNA's, RN's, LPN's and MD's about what they find and choose to try. This has opened up doors to nurses that are interested in wound/skin care as a specility or just something they are interested in to try for a time...couldn't have happened if the union hadn't had some power over how money in our hospital in concerns to nursing went!

    Also, we just voted on some health insurance costs that effected the entire hospital! Because we nurses have the only union, and the nurses union was the only one that had a voice in these financial desisions...we stood up for ALL employees (listened to what all employees thought and wanted) and helped get exactly what we all wanted!

    The next thing is having to get together for a very large burst of patients in our small hospital and what we can do to staff fairly with this sudden boom of patients! Our community is expanding very quickly and in large numbers...our hospital can not handle the latest population boom...so with the nurses union and administrative hospital heads...we must come up with what we can do to care for our community, yet not exaust and burn out our staff (not just nurses!) and resources in a fiscally responsible mannor for our growning community. THe union will help with this, as well as make sure that staff is protected from tactics (like mandatory overtime, cuts in benifits and wages, laying people off...and so on) the employees will not stand for.

    All these things directly effect patient care, and our hospital really tries to stay community oriented and focuses on our population of patients, and how to improve for them! That is why I like it so much! And the union is protection to keep that feeling of community strong and nurses strong!
  4. by   AllannahRN
    Well I'm a member of the California Nurses Association ... this is an article about the contract we just signed.

    http://www.calnurse.org/media-center...temID=28134856

    Highlights:
    --26.5% over five years plus an additional 3% for hundreds of RNs and NPs who have worked 30 years at Kaiser.
    --On retirement security, Kaiser agreed to provide full post-retirement medical benefits for all Kaiser RNs and NPs and their families - with no co-payments - for anyone with 15 years of service or more in Kaiser.
    --One example is stronger language in the agreement on safe staffing. Kaiser agreed to include the specific RN-to-patient ratios, a state law that the hospital industry and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have sought to reverse, in the contract, and a requirement that any dispute over the day-to-day application of the ratios be submitted to an arbitrator for binding resolution.
    --Model of Care language, RN as Coordinator of Care, delegates tasks to LVNs
    --No patient assignment for Inpatient and ED Charge Nurses
    --Guarantee "zero-lift" policy for safe patient handling at all times in hospitals
    --No floating of preceptee during preceptorship
    --Preceptor/preceptee share a single assignment
    --focus on building Float Pools to eliminate involuntary floating
    --If new clinical skills, procedures, technologies required, appropriate education is provided
    --CNA agreed to the Employer's $5 office visit co-pay, effective 4/1/07
    --Increase pension multiplier to 1.45% per year of credited service, 1/1/07
    --Increase annual dental cap to $1200 for each family member/dependent,
    effective 1/1/08
    --Expand eligibility for orthodontic benefit to dependents up to age 25
    --All RNs/NPs can be reimbursed costs for one voluntary certification
    --6%, 5.5%, 5%, 5%, 5% effective first pay period of each year beginning January 2007
    --No cancellation permanent feature of contract
  5. by   cardiacRN2006
    Tucson, I'm curious...do you live/work in S. Az right now? Or is your username unrelated to that?
  6. by   TazziRN
    I have always worked for a union hospital and refuse to work at one that is non-union. Not only do unions improve patient care and working conditions, it can protect the nurse from unfair treatment by admin. I've mentioned this before: twice I was accused of something I did not do, and if it had not been for the union I would have been fired.
  7. by   styRN
    Absolutely unions make an impact, both on the working and economic conditions of those in the union, as well as nurses who are in non-unionized facilities, since many of these facilities use the union's wages, benefits and working conditions as benchmarks in the industry.

    Our union, the Ontario Nurses' Association, represents 53,000 RNs and a few allied health professionals, and is a strong lobbying arm in all levels of government, has standing at inquests, is asked for recommendations re: legislation changes, has standing on our provinces regulatory licencing board, and too many others to mention.

    Our collective agreements with employers makes provisions for nurses to have elected members sit on hospital/facility committees mandatory, such as fiscal advisory committees (to have the union's say where monies are alocated), occupational health and safety committees, labour management, human rights and equity, labour management committees, just to name a few. In a unionized environment, where leadership is strong, nurses have a say with every aspect of their working environment and conditions.

    Often, bargaining is centralized, so as an example, most provincial hospitals negotiate collectively with the union, thereby maintaining consistancy across the board for hospital employees with regard to wages, benefits and working conditions.

    Again, non-unionized hospitals and other facilities often use the union's benchmarks for wages, benefits and working conditions to maintain their staff and as a recruiting stragedy, so our union effectively benefits non-union nurses.

    Essentially, 53,000 nurses with one voice, vs a single nurse standing alone. You decide.

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