"We owe Nurses Bigtime"

  1. Just wanted to share this opinion written in a Canadian newspaper. It's a lovely tribute.

    We owe nurses big time


    Tuesday, May 8, 2001

    When I first heard the news that B.C. nurses wanted a 60 per cent pay raise, it sounded excessive. After what I've just experienced, it seems like a bargain.

    A week ago, my mother was checked into the intensive care unit at Seven Oaks Hospital, a small regional hospital on the northern outskirts of Winnipeg. She has chronic lung disease and she's susceptible to pneumonia, and couldn't breathe.

    A worried son flew in last Tuesday afternoon and had an eye-opening lesson in 21st-century health care.

    There's nothing unusual about Seven Oaks. It would never be judged a world-class facility. No cutting-edge technology, no celebrity doctors. Just a little hospital on the Prairies. And the ICU is bare bones: Supervised by a single physician, the nursing team provides round-the-clock care for as many as seven patients.

    Yet they gave my mother and her fellow patients world-class treatment. People in the ICU are really sick. They can't feed themselves, go to the bathroom themselves, even scratch their noses themselves. After a couple of 12-hour shifts of wrestling IVs, filling out reports, dispensing medication, while at the same time fluffing pillows and cleaning up lemon Jello vomit, I'd be telling my patients to crawl to the bathroom, I'm busy.

    But not the nurses at the Seven Oaks ICU. Every one remained cheerful and helpful throughout the week I watched them perform. And, of course, they were performing, weren't they? No one could actually be cheerful under such conditions, could they?

    At the ICU, there are no set visiting hours, so the staff is under constant public scrutiny. You'd expect the mask to fall off at some point, but there wasn't even a raised voice, except to tell the hard-of-hearing that they might feel more comfortable lying on their other side for a while. It's the extraordinary range I admire. Public relations dispensed with civility; alert medical care, swift emergency response, endless bureaucratic chores dispatched, unstinting compassion. And here's me, getting in the way, asking a million questions, and they're all nice to me. I've never been to a resort where everyone was nice for a week.

    For this, they make a little more than a clerk at Safeway. As one nurse said to me in a moment of unguarded reflection, "If they get my groceries wrong, nobody dies."

    At the Seven Oaks ICU, nurses have to make a lot of medical decisions. The physician is the medical quarterback, and is himself relentlessly dedicated, but he has his own practice, and can't spend 24 hours in a hospital ward regardless. So the nurse is often on her (or his) own. Patient is choking on his own vomit? Wait for the doctor to call back? Don't think so.

    So I have to agree with B.C. Premier Ujjal Dosanjh, who has intervened in the B.C. nurses' contract dispute and has instructed the Health Employers Association to match the pay of Alberta nurses (they recently signed a contract making them the highest paid in the country). Of course, this has nothing do with with the latest poll, which shows Ujjal's in danger of losing his own seat on May 16.

    After nine years experience, senior Alberta nurses will make $32.42 an hour. That's about $65,000 a year, which doesn't sound bad unless you know that a rookie nose-tackle without a brain in his head makes $212,000 (U.S.) -- minimum -- in the NFL. And he's the last person I'd want to see when I'm sick.

    B.C. nurses want a top rate of $38 an hour. If they're anything like the Seven Oaks nurses, they're worth $212K (U.S.).

  2. Visit natalie profile page

    About natalie

    Joined: Sep '00; Posts: 99; Likes: 2


  3. by   nursenel
    You brought a tear to my eye with this. As nurses we do so very much with so little backup from anyone except other murses...we all need to be there for one another...watch each other's backs instead of trying to leave nursing bodies behind us as we scramble for the tid bit promotions and slippery ladder rungs.
  4. by   CEN35
    To bad this wasn't ran in newspapers or something? Even something like dear abby.

  5. by   natalie
    At the end of the article, the author's email address is listed. It took me one second to mail him a hearty thank-you. It is:

  6. by   natalie
    (Also, just fyi, the currency exchange for Canadian $65,000.00 year salary is equal to $42,000.00 american.)
  7. by   Janet Barclay
    Hi CEN, the globe and mail is one of Canada's national newspapers, so thankfully that lovely article will have been widely read (at least in the great white north)
  8. by   HotSpam
    What an awesome endorsement to nurses!

    The fact that this gentleman is not in nursing and is not stoking his own fire made his article a delight to read. We should all be thankful of those nurses who inspired him to right such a glowing account of them.

  9. by   ClariceS
    It was really great to read this. We don't get many thank-you's like we used to. I cannot remember the last time patients brought chocolates for my nurses (around 2 years ago?). We do get the occasional card but even those are fewer and fewer, not just my floor (as would indicate a problem) but in the entire hospital and verified by other nurses I know.
  10. by   CC NRSE

    Thank you so much for this post!!!
    I too sent an e-mail to thank Mr. Sullivan!!!