National Shortage of Hospital Staff Nurses

  1. I missed this when it was published during nurses week out and only came across it just the other day:

    <<United American Nurses Union Says
    Working Conditions Must Be Changed to End the National Shortage of Hospital Staff Nurses

    by Suzanne Martin

    No Relief In Sight As National Nurses Week Is Observed

    Washington, DC -- May 6, 2002 -- The critical shortage of registered nurses in the nation's hospitals is worse than ever and will be even more severe by the end of the decade, when one million new nurses will be needed to care for the ever-growing number of patients. Hospital working conditions are fueling the shortage of nurses, according to the United American Nurses, AFL-CIO (UAN), the union arm of the American Nurses Association.

    "This is a health care catastrophe in the making, and there's only one way to stop it" says Cheryl Johnson, RN, who leads the UAN. Johnson, a nurse at the University of Michigan Medical Center, has served 27 of her 30 years in nursing as an intensive care nurse. "Hospitals must make working conditions safe for nurses and patients."

    "Common hospital practices like mandatory overtime, 'working short,' arbitrary assignment to units where we're less experienced with procedures, and responsibility for two or three times too many patients are driving good nurses who can't or won't take it any more away from hospital patient care," Johnson asserts.

    UAN Director Susan Bianchi-Sand says simply attracting more young people to nursing won't end the nursing shortage. "Over the years our union has seen thousands of eager, smart and caring young nurses come into our hospitals, contend with dangerous working conditions for a few years, and finally leave because they're no longer willing to sacrifice their health and family life. And who can blame them?"

    Some hospitals are beginning to awaken to the fact that working conditions must be improved, says Bianchi-Sand, but "many hospitals are still in denial, and not ready to work and talk with staff nurses to make things better. It takes union action, strong bargaining and legislation to get their attention."

    Pay that doesn't measure up to the high levels of knowledge, skills and abilities also makes nursing a difficult career choice for young people with many attractive options. The median annual earnings of registered nurses in hospitals is about $46,000 (it was $45,780 in 2000 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). From 1996 to 2000, hospital staff nurse earning increased by just 2 percent annually - less than the cost of living.

    UAN union nurses are winning better pay and working conditions through collective bargaining with hospitals. In Portland, OR, UAN nurses won a 20% pay raise over three years and Long Island, NY nurses won up to 19%. Nurses in Fairmont, Minn., won pay raises of 14% over two years, plus significant improvement in insurance benefits. Nurses in nurses associations in Washington, Oregon, Minnesota and New Jersey successfully backed state legislation that significantly limits a hospital's ability to force RNs to work overtime - one of the top working condition problems noted by nurses nationwide.

    The UAN, the union arm of the American Nurses Association, is the nation's largest union of registered nurses - representing 100,000 RNs in UAN's state nurses association members - with contracts in public, private and Veterans Administration hospitals throughout the country.

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    Last edit by -jt on Jul 10, '02
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  3. by   oramar
    I like the title, National Shortage of Hospital Nurses, tells a lot in one sentence.
  4. by   Sleepyeyes
    The UAN site was the first site I read that really "tells it like it is" in plain English. We need that.
  5. by   -jt
    <The UAN site was the first site I read that really "tells it like it is" in plain English.>

    Chalk that up to the fact that the UAN is a union that is run by & made up of ONLY working staff nurses - over 100,000 of them in 26 states all across the country, from Florida to Alaska -plus DC & the US Virgin Islands. Working staff RNs are the only ones who can tell it like it is.... because theyre the ones living it every day.
    Last edit by -jt on Jul 13, '02
  6. by   NRSKarenRN
    nurses at denver's veterans administration medical center voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining the united american nurses. they became the first hospitalwide group of nurses to join a union in denver history.

    denver post, july 11, 2002,...6%257e,00.html

    greater voice in decision-making sought
    by marsha austin
    denver post business writer

    thursday, july 11, 2002 - veterans administration medical center nurses voted overwhelmingly on wednesday in favor of union representation, becoming the first hospitalwide group of denver nurses to join a labor organization in the city's history.
    the nurses chose united american nurses, the labor arm of the american nurses association, by a 58 percent margin. the rest of the nurses' votes were split between those who preferred the american federation of government employees and those who did not want to join a union. about 177 of the medical center's 276 registered nurses mailed in ballots.

    "this is for the future," said deanna jones, a 40-year veteran of nursing and a 16-year employee of the va medical center in denver. "with the nursing shortage looming over those of us who are so old, if we can get the support we deserve and nurses are respected, we have done our job."

    va nurses joined the union to gain a stronger voice in decision-making at the hospital, said jones.

    "we aren't really respected by decision-makers," she said. "without nurses, they wouldn't have a hospital."

    no hospital in denver has ever had 100 percent of its nurses join a union.

    kaiser permanente nurses organized in 1972. some of them work at exempla st. joseph hospital but are not employees of the hospital. more than half of st. joseph's nurses are nonunion exempla employees.

    "i am hoping that this will be a spur to some other nurses in the city who were waiting to see what happened," said ron harleman, regional director for the united american nurses in denver.

    the va nurses will immediately begin preparing for contract negotiations with hospital administrators. the nurses do not have much leeway in negotiating pay raises because their pay scale is set by congress. but jones said the nurses will try to change a rule that does not allow nurses without a master's degree to advance to higher pay grades.

    va nurses also want to be more involved in hospital decisions that affect patient care, such as decisions about staffing.

    the united american nurses represents more than 100,000 registered nurses nationwide and approximately 6,000 nurses at va medical centers.

    jones said she and her co-workers chose the uan because it is a professional union that is part of nurses' national trade association, the american nurses association, and only represents nurses.

    the uan has negotiated benefits and pay increases for nurses across the country. some examples:

    overtime is paid at time and a half for minnesota nurses who work longer hours than regularly scheduled, and double time for more than 12 hours.

    in michigan, barrage county memorial hospital full-time nurses and their families have full, employer-paid health and dental coverage.

    the washington state nurses association has negotiated contracts that pay home health nurses time and a half on-call when called in to work. washington state nurses also negotiated no mandatory overtime, no required overtime to any nurses floated out of their regular units, and no required overtime when a nurse comes in to work on a scheduled day off.

    mandatory overtime regardless of shift length is paid at double time in an oregon contract.

    in ohio, nurses at lima memorial hospital have a contract that prohibits mandatory overtime.

    washington hospital center nurses in the district of columbia are negotiating base pay for staff rns. salaries range from the low $40,000s to the low $80,000s, plus up to 25 percent in shift differentials.
  7. by   -jt
    Colorado is yet another Right-To-Work state where RNs have successfully unionized. You really have to hand it to them for their committment to improve their work situation & pt care because its so much more difficult to become a union in those places than it is in free states. Congrats to the Denver VA RNs.
  8. by   DelGR

    Here's a story about a nurse "that told it like it is" and is fighting for nurses rights in Illinois.
  9. by   -jt
    I was just reading the top of the article & realized it was Illinois & just as I was thinking to myself "And we know what they did to Pam Robbins there, now dont we" - and there it was in black & white! I was at our unions annual convention in Philadelphia the end of June & was in the Reading Terminal Market when I bumped into another Illinois Nurses Associtation/UAN RN activist/staff RN union leader friend from Illinois - Debbie Reed - the RN who fought for workplace safety laws (& got them) after her friend Mary Grimes was almost killed by a psych pt a couple of years ago. So we were chatting - having not seen each other in a while & I asked where was Pam. She told me the story - Pam Robbins - a member of the executive council of the UAN, a staff RN & union leader at her facility was fired after decades of exemplary work - because of her union activity. She couldnt take be at the convention & take her seat with the other RN leaders of our national union because there was a rally happening in her town for her support that day. The announcement about what had just happened to her was made at the meeting, we passed a hat, & held a silent auction of charcoal drawings that had been done in an earlier presentation that day, and collected a large sum of money to send her - along with a collective effort of our union to fight the unjust termination.

    If you ever saw Pam Robbins, "disruptive" would not be a word you would think of. Shes a slight, slender woman. And a lot of fun. I can see her telling them how the staffing cuts would hurt the pts & the hospital - & they probably didnt want to hear it. They probably also thought that if they got rid of the leader, the rest of would fall.

    These bosses think they can shut us up & keep us "in our place" by firing us for speaking out when we see something that is wrong, & the hope that when the rest of us see that one got fired for opening her mouth, we'll all quietly sink back into the shadows, but they have another think coming.

    Pam Robbins story is a perfect example of why nurses are bolting from the hospitals. And the lawmakers are hearing about it.
  10. by   Hellllllo Nurse
    Wonderful thread. It seems that in her efforts to help nurses avoid being maryrs for profit driven hospitals, Pam Robbins has become a martyr for the cause of nurses and nursing.

    How ironic.
  11. by   oramar
    how I admire these people.
  12. by   Torachan
    Here in Aus there is industrial action happening all over the country. Nothing centralised which weakens us. It would be nice for the ANF to organise the workers, both public and private (bone of contention), hospital and nursing home and address the issues that effect us (workplace violence, different pays).

    Anyway it is only when workers stand together that we can effect change. Patient ratio;s are in everyones best interest.