Hospital Cannot Require RNs to Remove Button Stating Demand for 'Safe Staffing'

  1. Hospital Cannot Require RNs to Remove Button Stating Demand for 'Safe Staffing'
    Labor Relations Week
    Apirl 14, 2005


    A Washington state hospital's requirement that nurses remove a union button demanding "safe staffing" when working in places where patients or their families might see the message is unlawful, a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge found March 24 (Sacred Heart Medical Center and Washington State Nurses ***'n, NLRB ALJ, No. 19-CA-29150, 3/24/05))..............................

    Read the whole article here:

    http://www.hpae.org/whatsnew0414052.htm
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    About Lanceman

    Joined: Jan '05; Posts: 50; Likes: 2

    50 Comments

  3. by   Lanceman
    If this is a political issue I could see how the hospital might have authority to remove the buttons. Many workplaces prohibit any political "propaganda". This doesn't seem to be too extreme, probably not much harm done. Planting the issue in patients minds is good in my opinion. If they started wearing badges displaying their current number of patients and how much this raises the percentage of the patient being victim to a mistake, that would probably be going to far.
  4. by   Marie_LPN, RN
    I feel that when you're on the clock, that is not the time to advertise your opinion. On your own time, fine.
  5. by   VivaLasViejas
    I'm sort of in the middle on this. Way back in the '70s when I was working in a printed-circuit board factory and we tried to unionize, you could wear a button as big as a Frisbee when you went to work, talk union to anyone who would listen as long as it was on your break, and the bosses couldn't touch you. Back then it was about employee safety.........we were exposed to all kinds of chemicals (and I'm beginning to wonder if that wasn't the beginning of a lot of my current health problems :stone ) and we believed unionization was the only way we'd be able to get the attention of OSHA and other government agencies who could help us. When you spend 10 hours a day breathing in stuff that could choke a horse, six months a year fighting off pneumonia and other respiratory ills, and half your paycheck trying to help the co-worker who's got a collapsed lung from breathing in trichlorethylene and God knows what else from working in an unventilated room........well, you have to fight with whatever weapons are at your disposal.

    Now, almost three decades later, nurses are pretty much in the same boat.....only it's not just self-preservation, it's the safety of PATIENTS that's on the line here. However, I no longer think embarrassing your employer is the way to go. A few months ago, we had nurses doing an 'informational picket' in front of the hospital, on the very first day of our JCAHO inspection. We were in contract negotiations, but there was some really bad blood between the union and the hospital, because our parent corporation had paid Cardinal consultants some $1.6 million to basically show them how to get more work out of us for less money. That didn't sit well with anyone, but when I was asked to join the informational picket, I stood with management and about 30 other nurses who refused to do so, and stayed on duty while JCAHO made its rounds.

    Fast-forward to the present day: The moderates who stayed above the fray helped to win not only a better contract, but convinced our managers of how desperate we really were, and they essentially chucked Cardinal's recommendations out the window. Now we rarely have more than 4-5 patients on day shift, we have better CNA coverage, and there is no cutting staff at 3 PM like there used to be (that's when everything tends to go to hell in a bushel basket). I'm not saying that it's ALWAYS best to continue on your appointed rounds when push comes to shove and management needs a swift kick in the *** to sit up and take notice........but in this case, NOT being obnoxious was the best course of action. Sometimes a little diplomacy is better than a whole lot of 'in your face' tactics.......but that's just IMHO.
  6. by   Tweety
    Good post Marla. I've never worked in a union or even lived anywhere where unions are a major force.

    I try to make it my personal policy not to bring the patients and families into my politics of striving for safe staffing. While it does affect them, it's not their fault that we're not staffed safely. Perhaps they need to know, but it's better for my rapport with them that if we are short-staffed I don't bring them into it. Usually they don't notice, but if I complain "we are dangerously short-staffed today", they aren't going to feel safe, or feel they aren't getting the attention they deserve.

    I know it sounds like a mind-game, but that's just me.
  7. by   VivaLasViejas
    Quote from Tweety
    Good post Marla. I've never worked in a union or even lived anywhere where unions are a major force.

    I try to make it my personal policy not to bring the patients and families into my politics of striving for safe staffing. While it does affect them, it's not their fault that we're not staffed safely. Perhaps they need to know, but it's better for my rapport with them that if we are short-staffed I don't bring them into it. Usually they don't notice, but if I complain "we are dangerously short-staffed today", they aren't going to feel safe, or feel they aren't getting the attention they deserve.

    I know it sounds like a mind-game, but that's just me.
    Exactly..........ITA with you on this one, Tweety, it's NOT the patients' fault when hospitals are short-staffed. There are, of course, times when you have to tell them "I'm doing the best I can, but I'm admitting another patient and I will bring you another soda just as soon as I'm through" :chuckle

    And there are those times when you can have 20 people out there on a 38-bed floor, and it's STILL not enough, like the past two days at my hospital when we've gotten 12 admits and 12 discharges in an 8-hour shift.......the total census hasn't changed, and you still have five patients, but the flippin' paperwork involved in admissions and discharges, PLUS your unstable CVA in Room 221 PLUS your fresh post-op in 223 PLUS the COPD'er in 220 with the transfusion reaction, all makes for an exceedingly ugly shift. :stone

    But even with all of that going on, you just don't tell patients and family members "Oh, we're short two nurses today, that's why you had to wait for your pain pill."
  8. by   SmilingBluEyes
    I agree, the workplace is not the place for the buttons. HOWEVER we better come up with SOME way to educate these folks and let them KNOW their lives are at risk with lousy ratios.
  9. by   VivaLasViejas
    Quote from SmilingBluEyes
    I agree, the workplace is not the place for the buttons. HOWEVER we better come up with SOME way to educate these folks and let them KNOW their lives are at risk with lousy ratios.
    Absolutely. If I were ever to change careers, it would be to become a lobbyist for nursing and elder care issues.......I'd be on the backs of Congress and the White House like a bad smell. :stone Unfortunately, someone else will have to take up the sword and go forth to fight these battles......I'm getting older, but not wealthier, and I doubt I'll EVER be able to afford to semi-retire so I can do this.

    Seriously, though, we will need to band together to educate the American public before the first wave of Baby Boomers reaches Medicare age......we think the system is a shambles now, wait till all 76 million of us are in what's technically considered old age and in need of health services!!
  10. by   OC_An Khe
    Its not about politics but about informing patients about safe staffing. If this wasn't a unionized hospital no buttons would be allowed. Even in a unionized facility it still took legal action to do this and prove it was protected speech. In the hospital out of the hospital patients need to be informed about safety and how inadequate staffing endangers them. If the hospital doesn't beleive that professionals should set their own safety standards then the patients should know that also. I have no qualms about buttons or any other communications that informs patients about the need for safe staffing. We all know the reason the hospitals fight the button and other safe staffing discussions is money and profits and plain out right greed.
  11. by   Marie_LPN, RN
    I have no qualms about buttons or any other communications that informs patients about the need for safe staffing.
    Patients are scared enough about their own problems while in the hospital, the button are NOT going to help their anxiety.
  12. by   SmilingBluEyes
    NOT in the hospital, however. They are anxious enough as Marie says...families are already hypervigilant......can you imagine how much worse it could get? To me, this is really inappropriate.
  13. by   2ndCareerRN
    the button are NOT going to help their anxiety.
    So, it is better to be dumb to the fact that your loved ones may be getting less than optimum care because of staffing issues?

    I would rather know the truth about staffing on a floor where my wife was a patient.

    As an aside, Marie. You have a job and probably like that job. FWIW Sacred heart laid off almost ALL of their LPN's involved in direct patient care on the floors. Who picked up the slack from those 88 nurses being laid off. Management? I don't think so! New hires? Nope, where are you going to get 88 new hires all of a sudden? They did add 30 CNA's and 30 RN's though. I don't think that mix equals 88 LPN's. So, what has happened was the RN's on the floors now have a greater workload, which means less than optimum staffing.

    I applaud these nurses for getting their concerns before the public. If things are to change it often has to come from outside.

    http://www.inlander.com/localnews/304260369888079.php

    bob
  14. by   Tweety
    Bob and ocankhe, I hear you and understand.

    I just don't see me wearing a button that essentially tells my patients they aren't safe under my care. Or a button that sets up a sue-happy person with a note pad. Granted hospitals should be sued for their staffing patterns, but I'd rather leave myself and my relationship with the patient out of it.

    I also realize that isn't advancing my cause for safe staffing ratios either and that's a bit hippocritical of me. But right now it's what works best for me while I have those high RN to patient ratios to deal with.

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