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Staffing and Unions: Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak

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by Melissa Mills Melissa Mills, BSN (Member) Writer Innovator Expert

Melissa Mills has 20 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Health and Wellness Writing, Leadership.

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All nurses want safe nurse-to-patient ratios. But, what if it comes in the form of a union? Would you be ready to join the union to have a seat at the table on the critical subjects like staffing or overtime? Discover why nurses at Beaumont Hospital in Michigan are urging others to consider unionizing.

Staffing and Unions: Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak

It seems talks about staffing ratios are taking the nation by storm. One group of nurses at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan is taking matters into their own hands. BeaumontNurses.org is a 100 nurse-strong group which has launched a drive to unionize the hospital with the Michigan Nurses Association. The push to unionize is to achieve safer nurse-to-patient ratios, but the question remains if the group fully represents all nursing staff.  

The hospital employs about 3,000 nurses. This is the fourth union drive at the facility in the last 24 years. Susan Grant, RN, executive vice president, and CNO was interviewed in a recent article and reports that she doesn’t believe the group advocating for a union represents the majority of nurses at the facility. Grant cited a recent satisfaction survey in which 80 percent of the nursing staff reported feeling “engaged” with their work. However, the question at hand is this, “Can you feel engaged but also feel that having a union to represent the majority of the nurses across the hospital is a good thing?”

Why They Want a Union

Not only have these 100 nurses organized themselves, created a website, and publicly listed their names to express their support, but they are openly sharing their reasons for the desire to unionize. Here are a few:

Philomena Kerobo, RN of 18.5 years in quoted stating, “Beaumont used to be a best place to work.” She went on to say that around 2007/2008 things changed at the hospital and today, she fears seeing her provider or having a procedure done because of the out of pocket expenses that she will have to pay for month or years to come. She wants the union so that she can have a “voice in what affects our patients and us (nurses).”

Irina Schmidt, RN who has been a nurse in the Emergency Center at Beaumont for five years stated, “I want to form a union to advocate for safe staffing levels for nurses, transparency from our administration, and the pay and benefits necessary to recruit and retain quality RNs.”

Christe Buck RN for 19 years at the facility reports that having a union will create a voice in decision making and allow for safer staffing. She ended her statement on the site with, “I’m proud to be Union Strong!”

Where does the Michigan Nurses Association Stand?

You might be wondering where the Michigan Nurses Association stands in all of this since the request to unionize was sent to the organization. The Michigan Nurses Association recently launched the Safe Patient Care Act in a 2019-2020 legislative session, in which they advocate for safe limits on patient assignments across the state. The act also calls for limitations on forced overtime for Michigan nursing staff and will require transparency of all facilities to report RN-to-patient ratios publicly. The MNA supports nurses efforts to obtain statewide legislation as well as facility-wide provisions that set staffing ratios, even if that means unionizing.

Along with these goals, the legislation calls to create committees made up of 50 percent direct-care RNs to help monitor staffing levels and use to national evidence-based standards to set nurse-to-patient ratios. A few of the proposed ratios include:

Emergency Room - 1:3 plus one ER nurse for triage

Medical-Surgical -  1:4

Intensive Care, including ER, neonatal, and pediatric - 1:1

First stages of labor - 1:2

Hearing the Voice of Nurses Across the Nation

It seems that the collective voice of nurses across the country is being listened to about staffing ratios. Whether it means that more facilities unionize or that states pass and enforce mandatory nurse staffing minimums is still to be seen. No matter what the answer is, we could be moving in a direction that’s much closer to patient safety, job satisfaction, and protection for nurses than we’ve ever been. You might even say that some of these nurses are working hard to put the “care” back into healthcare.

What are your thoughts? Would you join a union if it meant having a seat at the table on critical issues like staffing? Do you agree with the provisions presented in the Safe Patient Care Act that Michigan lawmakers have been given? Let us know your thoughts.

Melissa is a professor, medical writer, and business owner. She has been a nurse for over 20 years and enjoys combining her nursing knowledge and passion for the written word. She is available for writing, editing, and coaching services. You can see more of her work at www.melissamills.net.

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Christy1019 has 11 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in Emergency/Trauma/Critical Care Nursing.

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I work within this health system, albeit not at that specific hospital, and have mixed feelings about starting a nursing union.  My background was ER nursing for 9 years and I would have loved to have a 3 patient ratio, however I am now in a supervisory role and know that if you don't have the staff that is near impossible to ensure.  I also have dealt with multiple issues when it comes to the union that currently represents the non-professionals within our system, such as abuse of call-ins and FMLA, keeping their jobs after severe violations, and the general sense that they can get away with anything.  I have heard great things about unions in the nursing setting, but my experiences with the non-professional union have left a very bad taste in my mouth. 🤷‍♀️

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Melissa Mills has 20 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Health and Wellness Writing, Leadership.

9 Followers; 115 Articles; 275 Posts; 22,537 Profile Views

7 hours ago, Christy1019 said:

I work within this health system, albeit not at that specific hospital, and have mixed feelings about starting a nursing union.  My background was ER nursing for 9 years and I would have loved to have a 3 patient ratio, however I am now in a supervisory role and know that if you don't have the staff that is near impossible to ensure.  I also have dealt with multiple issues when it comes to the union that currently represents the non-professionals within our system, such as abuse of call-ins and FMLA, keeping their jobs after severe violations, and the general sense that they can get away with anything.  I have heard great things about unions in the nursing setting, but my experiences with the non-professional union have left a very bad taste in my mouth. 🤷‍♀️

Thanks for your comment! I agree that there are pros and cons to unionizing. I have no experience with nurse unions, however, my experience with non-professional unions (my husband's company) isn't positive. We need more open, honest conversations about these types of issues to know how to handle these issues though. 

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blackribbon specializes in Med/Surg, Gyn, Pospartum & Psych.

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I am theoretically anti-union, especially for professionals.  However, as staff nurses we have no say in our working conditions like other professionals.  I am very pro-contract so that we can have some guarantees that protect our patients and allow us to provide the care they deserve.  The things this union can do is give the nurses a voice in the hospital.  The way to say that we are working short staffed, working short of the supplies we need to provide quality care, and working exhausted from mandated overtime or too heavy of acuity for the assignment given to us.  What is different about this union is that it is nurses from Beaumont who make up this union with support from the MNA.  We are only serving this one hospital and the contract only applies to what this hospital"s nurses say are their priority issues.  The purpose is to provide an environment where good nurses stop leaving all the time and to allow us to nurse to the standards we want to care for our patients.  This is in contrast to constantly being told what is going to happen to us and if we don't like it, we are free to leave.  A union allows us to speak as one voice representing 3500 nurses who share many of the issues instead of 3500 individual nurses saying the same thing but are being told to sit down and shut up if we want our jobs.

I do work at Beaumont Hospital and simply want to be allowed to provide the level of care they claim they want us to provide.  

Edited by blackribbon

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Doris Carroll has 35 years experience as a BSN and specializes in L&D/HIV/ID/OB/GYN Primary Care Adults/Children.

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Nurse Unions do work effectively to provide shared governance—a voice at the table, requiring administrators to be transparent, safe workplace conditions. Listen, management despising unions is as old as baked bread. It’s easier to control staff than to negotiate with them. Unfortunately, many nurses view unions as unprofessional. Is it professional that you have mandatory overtime? Staffing ED with 6 patients? ICU with 3-4 patients? Med-Surgery with 8 patients? No mechanism to voice concerns to effect change? That’s called abuse. The patriarchal systematic abuse of an administration over a mostly female-dominated profession. A nurses union will train you, support you and make it legal to fight for the much needed reset of the nursing profession. Unions are successful in making staffing safe for nurses. Almost two decades of research support having adequate numbers of skilled nurses at the bedside ~>improves patient outcomes, nurse satisfaction and reduced nurse injuries. The question should be: Why would you NOT join a union? #NursesUnite #NursePatientRatiosNOW #INA #NursesTakeDC

Vice President, Illinois Nurses Association 

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I’m always quite put-off when floor nurses throw around the term “professionals” - this is a classic case of language being used against you.  If you’re a nurse, you are a tradesperson, not a “professional”.  That isn’t a put-down, it’s not a license to act “unprofessionally”, it is what it is.  

Since the very establishment of labor-laws and unions, there has been a well-funded and relentless war going on against labor.  Part of that war has been using the language of labor against labor, and “Professional Nurse” might be the gold standard for turning an ambiguous “compliment” into a weapon to use against blue-collar labor.  

Professionals write their own schedules, have a voice in the management of business, and by virtue of their extensive education and the nature of their responsibilities- they have more negotiating power than blue-collar workers.  

When mega-corps start calling you a “professional” , it’s not because they value you.  It’s because they don’t want to pay you overtime or have you join a union.  This isn’t a compliment- it’s an insidious plot - and it’s actually quite effective.  

Ask yourself how many other “professions” require the physical endurance and manual labor that direct patient care requires.  Floor-nursing doesn’t require an advanced degree because it is a blue-collar trade -  just like machinists, pipefitters, welders and plumbers - most of which have a long history of unionizing because that’s how they can get treated fairly.  

Nurses are replaceable and interchangeable to corporations.  Actual professionals are not easily replaceable because of their unique knowledge and skill sets.  

This is obviously excluding nurses who have completed advanced education- certainly at the AP, DNP or possibly at the Master’s level “professional” might apply, but if your job duties include wiping doody, you are blue-collar & you need a union.  imho.  

 

Flame away..  

 

 

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On 5/2/2019 at 2:53 AM, Christy1019 said:

My background was ER nursing for 9 years and I would have loved to have a 3 patient ratio, however I am now in a supervisory role and know that if you don't have the staff that is near impossible to ensure. 

In your supervisory role yes it is difficult to not have staff, and that makes it near impossible to ensure a ratio. Heck, not having an appropriate amount of staff on duty makes it difficult to staff assignments appropriately whether a union or a ratio is in play or not.

But you have not identified the cause of those difficulties.

The cause is that there hasn't been approval to hire the amount of nurses to ensure that safe ratios (or simply safe assignments, take your pick) can be staffed.  There has been a stubborn refusal to do so.

 

On 5/2/2019 at 2:53 AM, Christy1019 said:

I also have dealt with multiple issues when it comes to the union that currently represents the non-professionals within our system, such as abuse of call-ins and FMLA, keeping their jobs after severe violations, and the general sense that they can get away with anything

All of these are issues are unsatisfactory, to be sure, but (especially the first three) are not limited to those settings with a union agreement. Not even remotely.

Edited by JKL33

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subee has 45 years experience as a MSN, CRNA.

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As long as the "union" represents only nurses, then I have no problem with it.  It's when we get mixed in with non-nurses that we are not represented as "professional nurses"...at least that's what my lincense says.

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TriciaJ has 37 years experience as a RN and specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory.

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I would not work in a nursing job that wasn't unionized.  If you spend any time at all on this forum, you will see it is rife with threads by people who are being treated poorly and have no recourse.  A union contract sets the rules for both parties; no contract means Management sets, enforces and changes the rules to suit itself.

I've heard all the anti-union propaganda:  we're not really professional if we're not unionized, poor performers can't be dismissed, etc.  The contract is really the only thing standing between us and indentured servitude (such as new-grad contracts).

If unions can help us get the staffing we need (and our patients the care they need) then we seriously need to think about joining or forming one.  

And the money is better, too.

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blackribbon specializes in Med/Surg, Gyn, Pospartum & Psych.

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The residents at the same hospital are discussing unionizing.  I suppose they are "trades people" too.  I will agree that we are treated like we are trades people.  Sad, considering my other degree (BS) is in engineering and the nursing degree was significantly harder to earn.  

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