Five years ago (or maybe more now!), some very foresighted nurses organized a march on Washington to raise public awareness to what was happening in our hospitals. Remember that? There is an organization called the "Florence Project" that started on-line a few years ago with the same intent, raise public awareness, organize nurses to advocate for patient and nurses rights. They tried to get nurses nationwide to rally on May 1st every year for the past few. The response has been dismally diappointing. I helped try to organize one in my area. It pretty much flopped. They have a website you can reach at www.florenceproject.org.
They have a downloadable "Assignment despite Objection" which might me helpful to you. I suggest make several copies and keep them at work so you can fill one out and submit it to your manager on those horrific days you describe. Make sure you keep a copy. Our unit was filling out incident reports when we felt conditions were unsafe and staffing insufficient. Management told us we're not allowed to do that anymore unless someone is injured!
Nursing bulletin boards all through cyberspace are filled with stories like yours. Until nurses start fighting back instead of walking away, I don't see much hope for improvement. (Our passive agressive behaviors as an oppressed group would make great study material!)
The California Nurses Association is a great example and real leaders in patient and nurse advocacy. Visit their website. There is information on their site regarding legislation at the federal level to ban mandatory overtime. I encourage you to download a copy and take it to your Congressman for his support.
The articles in the Chicago Tribune have sparked a lot of dialogue. This was my response to them:
I've been an RN since 1971. We have been in a crisis in our hospitals for several years now. When I read the first article by the Tribune on 9/10 I thought finally, it's going to come out. I thought finally, the public would hear how unrealistic the expectations of what a nurse is capable of handling in 8-12- or (God forbid you get mandated! ), 16hrs, is unrealistic, inhuman and unhealthy to the nurse as well as patient. I thought finally, the health industry, insurance companies, executive, etc. would be exposed for the greedy bastards they are. I thought finally, the public would learn how they have devastated our hospitals and driven more and more excellent, dedicated nurses out of the profession because they cannot in good conscience continue to work under this horrible system. I thought finally the stoic few who march into our hospitals on a daily basis, to care for our sick and dying, only to crawl out exhausted, demoralized and dejected, will be vindicated and rewarded for their dedication. I thought wrong. Instead of getting to the heart of what's wrong with our health care system, instead of exposing what has created a work environment that nurses are fleeing in droves from, the Tribune seems to be on a "bash the nursing profession while they're down" spree. There is a world-wide shortage of nurses. Are your articles going to enhance the nursing profession's appeal as a career choice to those out there that may be considering it? If not, the next time your family member needs a nurse I hope your cross trained.
Nursing Spectrum (on-line @ www.snursingspectrum.com)
also has a bulletin board with much dialogue going on. One very fed up nurse is trying to organize a one day nationwide sick out! I think that is a bit extreme. I posted this there:
Maybe now is the time with all this momentum building to try it again(a nationwide day of unity. If on the same day, same hour, every off-duty nurse gathered with others in their closest major city across the country to hold a prayer vigil for patient safety and better working conditions, and at night with candles, that's always pretty dramatic. Think that would raise public awareness and get the attention of the media and some politico's? Wish we could organize it before the election! Maybe just maybe the time is coming that nurses are finally ready to take a stand. I hope so.