Alright here's Part II.
I apologize for the delay but like many of you, my life was calling. What I'm attempting to accomplish here is simply an exercise so you can understand what pitfalls await as the landscape of your profession changes before your very eyes. I firmly believe that the Nursing profession is in imminent danger of attack. Some of those attacks are malicious, with nefarious intent, while others are more subtle and simply a by-product of a drastically changing economic / social environment. I'm fearful that a perfect storm of multiple challenges await your fine occupation.
"Paranoia can be a good thing. Just because you're paranoid, that doesn't mean they're not out to get you."
-Andy Grove, Former Intel CEO.
Back when I was an Airline Pilot, I belonged to ALPA, The Air Line Pilots' Association. The Association had a long, storied history, especially concerning areas of safety and incident investigations. The Association has seen better days at this point, and is severely fractured, and basically has become an impotent eunuch. Some time back, pilots at United Air Lines who were knee-deep in difficult negotiations that were going nowhere (due to of all things, the Railway Labor Act) decided it was time to take action. The end result was a "work-to-rule" job action during the summer travel season, which has been referred to as the "Summer Of Love". Pilots did exactly what was required of them, and nothing more. The result was chaos in the system...vacations / graduations / funerals / business trips missed.
The pilots had VERY legitimate grievances, to be sure, but their actions just infuriated their ultimate customers, who viewed Airline Pilots as childish and churlish. Meanwhile their employer looked like the victim in the whole escapade. What a poor bush-league / moronic move. ZERO sympathy on the street for these folks, even though they DID have legitimate concerns.
Now let's get back to healthcare...
Some time ago Pharmacists at Walgreens had concerns about workload, just like Nurses do today. Most Pharmacists make a decent amount of money, and in my opinion generally deserve it. In Illinois, where I live, Pharmacy Technicians are in extensive use in retail environments. As far as I can tell, $28,000 / year is pretty good money for a technician here in the third largest city in the country. But here's the problem...an already overworked Pharmacist now has oversight over a woefully paid Technician who just might not have the same level of professional demeanor as their supervisor.
The Technican went out drinking last night, and today screwed up some of their work, and a patient is subsequently harmed.
The Technican loses their job, but the Pharmacist loses their CAREER.
I'm confident most Nurses can empathize with that, No?
So the Pharmacist Union decides to strike Walgreens. Just prior to this "stunt", Walgreens was opening a new store every 14 ½ hours, 7 days a week. The strike failed within days with ZERO public support.
In the military, there's a saying:
"If you can dominate the skies, you can dominate the battlefield."
Nursing MUST take a similar tack. You have professional concerns? They should be out there for everyone to see and hear.
Sunshine IS the best disinfectant.
Grassroots public education about legitimate professional nursing "concerns".
Full page ads in USA Today and the Wall Street Journal (so the shareholders start getting nervous). We all read / watch the news...down play direct compensation issues, at this point in this crazy economy that's a sure "Road To Nowhere". Get it on the news and keep it out there. Make sure folks understand the sacrifices you were willing to endure to get where you are now.
Aren't their loved ones deserving of the best care possible?
Remember the saying about "follow the money"? There is A LOT more people making A LOT more money for A LOT less work, and A LOT less heartbreak. Let them feel the pain.
Well-spoken ACTIVE Nurses on every damned public forum they can find ...local cable access shows, local op-ed pages in your favorite newspaper...you guys aren't stupid, I'm certain you can think of more.
If you're a prolific writer, you're desperately needed to strut your stuff. I look like a troll, and have a face made for radio. If I were a Nurse, I'd know my place.
Municipal, State and Federal Legislative Outreach.
I'll bet a lot of you guys are unable to tell me the names of your local State Representatives. That's OK, most people can't; but that HAS to change. Phone calls / e-mails / traditional letter campaigns. Think back when you were a young nurse, you thought you'd NEVER learn this stuff, and now you're expert, or at least pretty close. You can do THIS too. Get some money together, gather your best and brightest folks, and set up a "play date" at a local tablecloth restaurant with your Representative. Buy them dinner in a private room, with no media present (or maybe YES), and put those soft skills to work. Think of it...they get deluged with phone calls and e-mails. A nice, quiet, pleasant conversation with educated, rational, reasonable people...I can think of a lot worse circumstances to be in.
So can you.
As you gain experience, amp it up. Members of Congress / Senators...get enough visibility, and don't be surprised when you're invited to a Sub-Committee hearing. Just make sure your friends and family Tivo C-SPAN. You'll never live THAT one down.
More aggravation from me soon.
Best regards from Chicago
Apr 20, '09
Neither thread insulted me in any way. In fact it has made think of the times I have driven home from work upset and physically exhausted, for less than twenty dollars a hour. My pay has increased but not like my husband's. He is a pharmacist, when we married in 1996 (our second marriage) he made six dollars more an hour than I did. After the pharmacists made their entry level doctorate, their pay soared. They played the political game and became united (not an union), so now they start off at 90,000 a year out of school not 7.00/hour my husband made in 1976.
I was a CNA, LPN, and now a RN who is trying to return to school for MSN. There are many reasons, but mainly to increase my pay.
When I talk to nurses about different issues, most do not seem to care or notice. I have heard "it has been this way, and will always be this way." and I would think how sad.I believe in change cause it is coming whether you like it or not. So instead of being passive I want to be effective. I do know who my representative is, I was the secretary for our AACN chapter in TN Valley. We lobbied but in Alabama most things don't get changed easily. I do fel we made a dent, but much more must be done.
I will be waiting for the next instllment.
Apr 20, '09
Contacting your state representative works except when they've been on the board of a certain hospital you were employed at !
Apr 22, '09
What a wonderful service you have performed by posting these concerns. I am a second-career nurse who lived through the nightmarish decline in IT. I supported a family on my own by in my 20-year career in IT. I saw first-hand how our government drove down fair salaries to nothing by the steady increase in H1B visa workers, willing to work for 1/2 the salary. I cannot count the holidays, weekends and 60-hour weeks I worked, not for overtime, but just to keep my job.
Once my son finished college, I chose to change to nursing, not for the money (since I still was earning more money in IT than I do now in nursing), but to get satisfaction from my livelihood and to try to make some difference in the lives of other people. Can you imagine the horror I had when I saw that nursing was indeed being targeted just as my previous career had been targeted? All matters that you have put forward, I have seen on the job and seethed quietly as my fellow nurses seem unaware of what's happening.
I have recently changed jobs because the former job required me, the R.N. to be responsible for 8 patients on a med-surg night shift in addition to assuming ultimate responsibility for the care of 8 more patients assigned to an LPN for the shift.
One of my nursing school instructors told the class that nurses cannot afford NOT to be a member of ANA. After reading your excellent post, I am joining today.
Thanks for this wake-up call.