Nurses Activism


ANA Files Amicus Brief in Support of Six Nurse Whistleblowers

Washington, DC -- The American Nurses Association (ANA) has filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief on behalf of six registered nurses (RNs) from New Mexico who have chosen to stand together and act as whistleblowers regarding a physician whose alleged incompetent and unprofessional conduct is claimed in a lawsuit to have resulted in the death of a patient.

The six nurse employees of Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, NM, have agreed on ethical grounds to testify in support of the patients in a lawsuit brought forth by Thomas Smith and Irene Dockray against Lorraine Martinez, D.O., an obstetrician-gynecologist. Martinez is accused of negligence and incompetence involving Smith's wife, Deborah, who died from sepsis, a massive infection, after Martinez allegedly failed to treat her. She is also accused of permanently harming Dockray during a medical procedure. Memorial Medical Center has challenged the nurses' actions, citing a provision in state regulations that prohibits the sharing of any patient information, regardless of how it may be used.

The ANA, citing conflict and ambiguity in New Mexico law, has urged the court to protect the nurses, who are exercising their ethical responsibility. ANA argues that the application of the state regulation in question limits the ability of the nurse to report incompetent practice, which is a statutory mandate.

"The ANA is standing behind these nurses because we support the right of RNs to disclose, reveal and disseminate their concerns about care, even when health care institutions challenge such actions and threaten the job security of nurse whistleblowers," said ANA President Mary Foley, MS, RN. "The ethical stand these nurses are taking is supported by the ANA Code of Ethics, which provides nurses with principled reasons for taking such stands regarding issues of patient safety and competent practice."

According to court documents, the six Memorial Medical Center nurses had independently voiced concerns to their nurse managers regarding the care provided by Dr. Martinez, and noticed alleged deficiencies in her practice for several years preceding Smith's death. In addition, it is claimed that other nurses brought Martinez's alleged shortcomings to the attention of other physicians. But, according to the court documents, over a six-year period no action was taken by the hospital to investigate or correct the alleged deficiencies of Dr. Martinez's practice prior to the death of Smith and injury to Dockray.

Of particular concern to the nurse whistleblowers is possible retaliation by the hospital. After the case was filed against Martinez and the nurses agreed to testify, one of the nurses retired and later heard from other nurses that she had been blackballed by the institution, while a second nurse allegedly was offered a job in management after being identified as a potential witness on behalf of the hospital. Several nurses have since secured their own attorneys and have also turned to the New Mexico Nurses Association and ANA legal counsel for help. But Memorial Medical Center contends that its attorney represents past and present nurses, regardless of whether those nurses have consented to hospital attorney representation.

"The Memorial Medical Center case is particularly disturbing because it overwhelmingly points to the dangers and ambiguities inherent in a health care system that does not protect health care workers who speak up to safeguard their patients," Foley noted. "The nurses in this case were doing the right thing, but now they are being punished. That is why we need stronger state and federal protections for whistleblowing nurses and ultimately their



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These nurses are testifying AGAINST the hospital & the MD yet the hospital is insisting that they use ITS lawyer to represent them! - even though the nurses have their own legal counsel thru their association & solely for their own protection & interests. WHY is the hospital trying to stop the nurses from using their own lawyers. Why would the hosptial try so hard to force the nurses who are testifying against it to use ITS lawyer to represent them. Could it be so the nurses can get the shaft? hmmmmmmmm.....

If anyone would like to send a note of support to the "New Mexico Six", can email:

E-mail: [email protected]

or visit


Score one for the good guys!.....

Court Ruling Protects Nurse Whistleblowers -

WASHINGTON, July 11 /U.S. Newswire/ --

The American Nurses Association (ANA) and its constituent member, the New Mexico Nurses Association (NMNA), applauded the Third Judicial District Court ruling of the Hon. Thomas Cornish July 10, which provides protection for six registered nurses who acted as whistleblowers against a physician who allegedly acted incompetently and unprofessionally, and whose actions, according to the plaintiffs, resulted in the

death of a patient.......

Although the parties await the written order, the judge ruled on July 6, 2001, that he would grant the plaintiffs' motion for rules governing the questioning of nurse witnesses. The ANA had filed an amicus brief in support of the nurses, in which the association detailed the importance of the Code of Ethics and patient advocacy in the context of nursing practice.......

ANA's argument was presented by the association's nursing practice counsel, Winifred Y. Carson.......

"The nurses in this case adhered to the profession's Code of Ethics," said ANA General Counsel Alice Bodley. "Under this Code, they are required to stand up, speak out and protect their patients. The judge's ruling is a victory for the workplace advocacy efforts of the ANA." ........

The six nurses are members of NMNA and are, or had been, employees of Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, NM. Based on ethical grounds, they testified in support of the patients in a lawsuit brought forth by Thomas Smith and Irene Dockray against Lorraine Martinez, D.O. Martinez is accused of negligence and incompetence involving Smith's wife, Deborah, who died from sepsis, a massive infection, after Martinez allegedly failed to treat her.......

She is also accused of permanently harming Dockray during a medical procedure.......

The court ruled that the Memorial Medical Center could not require its employed nurses to speak only through or with hospital attorneys. Over the hospital's objections, the judge included a charge nurse within the scope of the court's protective ruling for the staff nurses........

This ruling not only provides protections for the nurses involved in the case, it also reveals the importance of nurses' ethical requirements and the need for state law and judicial proceedings to protect nurses who speak out on behalf of quality patient care.....

In addition, the court held the hospital accountable for any retaliation against the nurses, stating that retaliatory action will be considered contempt of court..........

"This case sends a message in New Mexico and throughout the country that nurses can and will stand up and make their concerns known about inadequate or deficient patient care," said NMNA President Judith Dunaway, RNC, MSN, HNC. "The nurses tried to work internally through the hospital system; but, that system didn't work.........

When nurses express concern over inadequate care, their concerns should not be ignored. Now the barriers have been removed that would hinder nurses in New Mexico from speaking out for their patients." .......

ANA President Mary Foley, MS, RN, was also happy about the ruling. "Nurses should never feel that their jobs or licenses are jeopardized because they speak out against poor medical practice or unsafe patient care," said Foley. "It's our responsibility as nurses to advocate on behalf of our patients."


Julie, this is good news! Having been a whistleblower that lost my job over it, this is near and dear to my heart. I did eventually win the lawsuit over it, and after a time of not being able to work because of it I have a job I am very happy with, and my employers knew what had happened and still supported and hired me.

Wanted to let you know been doing alot of thinking lately and will likely be joining the Michigan Nurses Association. Percepted a new grad the other day who is 55. Like I usually do I got to talking with her about the various issues, and found out that her daughter is also a nurse that works downstairs in the host hospital. The daughter is very involved with MNA and made plans to meet with her. Looking forward to it. There is talk of trying to bring in a union through the MNA into Battle Creek Health System, where she is. I do not work for BCHS, they are the host hospital for my facility. We rent the top floor from them. We contract most of our services through BCHS. But we are a totally separate hospital. We do long term acute care. Most of my patients are vented, being weaned. We do nasty infections, we have two with the flesh eating bacteria, it is not active now, but much healing has to be done. We also do long term wounds. Anyway, a funny thing happened the other day. My management people know that I do what I do as far as speaking out, this really came to the forefront with the New York Times article. I am happy where I am because for the most part we do not have many issues. Patient to staff ratios are doable, and we have no mandatory overtime. Can't say the same thing for BCHS. Anyway one of the administrative persons called me into her office last week to ask me specifically about nurses and unions. She wanted to know how I felt about it. Was honest and told her I was a fence rider for all the various reasons you are familiar with. We chatted a bit and I went back to work. Yet all day long I couldn't shake the feeling that she had asked me this specifically because I am an activist and the admin. is trying to get a feel for how I feel about unionization. Especially because the union talk downstairs is getting pretty heavy. The admin. people know that my co-workers come to me regularly requesting information about what is happening around the country with nursing. For various information. I'm bad and I smoke so I interact on a regular basis with other bad smoking nurses in BCHS and we talk. I now have nurses for BCHS that will call me and ask for information too. Some I don't know, but have been told by others that I stay up with it all. My admin. people are feeling out how I stand on union issues. Really gave me pause and got me thinking even harder. I'm wondering what do they fear. We are better paid then the nurses downstairs who just got a cost of living raise that was 22 cents. We got one at the beginning of July that was over $2 an hour for me. BCHS relies on mandatory overtime, my facility does not use it. BCHS has nurses in med-surg taking 8-10 patients regularly, my facility has a policy of no more than 5 on days and no more than 6 on nights. Our acuity is too high for anything else. So I'm going through and doing my work while wondering what in the world my admin. care how I feel about unions. Still sitting the fence on it, but it has got my mind working. Right now I would say that my coworkers are about evenly split on the issue. But I will also tell you that when I told my CEO about the Times article the look of horror that passed over his face when I said the words nurse activist was priceless. Gave me a 3 second look into how management views nurses that are vocal. And despite the fact that my article was very favorable to the facility, they would not give permission for me to have a picture taken while working. Had to do it outside.

So I'm going to meet with the nurse that is active in MNA. Have much information gathering to do, and go from there. Could be a good thing.

Good luck helen. I know you tried that route before & werent satisfied. Maybe it will work out better for you this time.

Its a great group over at the Michigan NA - especially the staff RNs of the UAN delegation & the strong collective bargaining/UAN branch of MI NA.

First I would recommend you attend MI NA convention. You can attend as an observer to get an idea of the business that the association does & how it works. I'd suggest that if you join the association, you dont just join but also become involved. With your experience talking to your legislators, you might want to start with signing on for the N-Stat - the political activism group. You might also want to talk to the collective bargaining people to find out more about unionization as you go along. I know you dont believe in it but maybe more info or seeing how it works might help clear up some questions for you.

I had the pleasure of not only working with but also hanging out at a glorious pool in the DC hotel with members of the Michigan UAN delegation. All UAN delegates are unionized staff RNs, as you already know . They are the nurses who their collegues have elected to represent them. They have been on contract negotiating committees, grievance committees, labor/ management committees, and have lead labor disputes, etc. We are experienced UNION nurses so we all have been through what each other has been through. So its so great get together & share ideas & "borrow" from each other.

One day during the UAN convention in DC last month, a few of us from NY, Minn, Ill, & Mi had a little poolside brainstorming party & a lot of fun. Its a good feeling to be able to sit down with people from all over the country who have become your friends, who you have a connection with (our association), share similarities (UAN activism, contract negotiations, legislative efforts in our respective states, following the same master plan, a very special kind of kinship), share the same problems, & practically are walking in each others shoes. To sit there in a little pow-wow type of gathering poolside & be able to share ideas & solutions & say hey! we went thru that! this is how we worked it at my facility. or this is the contract language we used. etc... was energizing for all of us. These are what I like most about our associations. We're in it together - no matter the state. And we are making a difference together. I think the Michigan group is very pro-active, strong, committed, & on a roll. It is one of the 9 founders of the UAN.

As for your manager asking you about unionizing... Im sure you know you did not have to answer the question as it is against the law for them to ask you that. Especially if there is a unionizing campaign going on. Youre probably being targeted for labor activity - which is also a violation of your rights. Maybe there is talk of unionizing in the other facility because they want the same standard as you have at your facility. And if there is talk at your facility of unionizing, maybe it is to protect the standards that you now have so they cant be changed or eliminated.

Either way, the hospital probably has its eye on you & you may have enough ammunition to charge "retaliation for union activity" if any unfair disciplines suddenly appear against you. Keep a log of the dates & conversations like the one they just had with you. You already know what they fear. They fear having to spend money on improvements the organized nurses will insist on. They fear having to share decision-making about the nurses, pt care, and operations WITH the nurses & they fear having to answer to someone above them - the nurses union.

But one thing at a time. First find out if belonging to your states professional association & getting involved with it yourself is something you want to do. Unionizing with its collective bargaining branch is a separate thing & something that may come later, but thats up to your colleagues. You cant do that by yourself.


check your labor law rights so you dont get sucked into any more intimidating, illegal discussions with management over your activism.

Julie, this is good news! Having been a whistleblower that lost my job over it, this is near and dear to my heart.>>

well you can thank our own JennyP here. Shes one of the staff RN delegates to the ANA that worked on developing, revising & strengthening the ANA's Code of Ethics. (see?? It really is nurses - not some officials sitting in an ivory tower somewhere making up all the rules)

"So I'm going to meet with the nurse that is active in MNA. Have much information gathering to do, and go from there. Could be a good thing."

well if it is, I'm glad we had something to do with it!

Tell me more about Nstat. I am not familiar with that. And thanks for the words of encouragement. Learning not to cut my nose off to spike my face maybe. :)

You can network, obtain info & get more involved by attending convention & seeing the association at work. You just wont be able to vote this time..... but you can get all the info you need plus CEU's and it besides, it looks like a very exciting event!


Preliminary Convention Information


October 3-6, 2001

What Drives Our Lives: Practice, Policy, Politics, People

Goal - The goal of the convention is to enable nurses to map critical issues and practical strategies that will put them in the driver's seat.

Wednesday, October 3, 2001

5:00-8:00 p.m. Conference Registration

Concurrent Lectures - your choice:

6:00-9 p.m. Practical Strategies for Merging NANDA, NIC & NOC in Academic Nursing Education-- Gail Keenan RN, PhD & Mary Killeen PhD, RN -- 3.0 contact hours

6:00-8 p.m. Establishing the Rules of the Road: Dealing with Ward Rage - Judy Rizzo RN, MSN -- 2.0 contact hours

6:00-9 p.m. When Patients Can't Tell You About their Pain: The Mechanics of Assessment - Sandra Merkel RN, MSN, Janice Locke RN, MSN -- 3.0 contact hours

6:00-9p.m. Nurse Practitioner Evaluation and Management Documentation and Coding-Carol Olthoff RN, Family Nurse Practitioner -- 3.3 contact hours

6:00-9 p.m. "Improving Your Workplace Through Unionization" - John Karebian, Terri Peaphon, RN, Alyson Wolvin, RN

Thursday, October 4, 2001

7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Conference Registration

7:30-8:30 a.m. Carver Model Orientation

8:30-8:45 a.m. Opening Ceremony

8:45-10:15 a.m. Nurse Staffing and Quality in Hospitals: What We Know and What We Need to Know-Mapping Critical Strategies-

Peter Buerhaus RN, PhD, FAAN -- 1.8 contact hours

10:15-10:30 a.m. Break

10:30-noon Actions for Today About Nurse Staffing Issues-Putting Nurses in the Driver's Seat- Peter Buerhaus, RN, PhD, FAAN -- 1.8 contact hours

Noon-2 p.m. Box Lunch in Exhibit Areas

2:00-3:30 p.m. A Call to the Profession: Nursing's Agenda for Change - ANA CEO Linda Stierle RN, MSN, CNAA -- 1.8 contact hours

3:30-5:30 p.m. E&GW Meeting (collective bargaining branch)

5:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Reference Committee Hearing

7:00 p.m. MNA-PAC Event (Michigan Political Action Committee)

7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. "Introduction to MEMO - Mobilizing and Educating Members for Organizing/Unionizing" - Terri Peaphon, RN

Friday, October 5, 2001

7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Conference Registration

7:30-8:30 a.m. Congress on Public Policy

7:30-8:30 a.m. Congress on Nursing Practice

7:30-8:30 a.m. Congress on Nursing & HC Economics

8:30-11:30 a.m. From Silence to Voice - Suzanne Gordon -- 2.0 contact hours

12:30-1:30 p.m. New Delegate Orientation - Jody Berney

11:30-1:30 p.m. Box Lunch in Exhibit Area

1:30-3:00 p.m. Mentorship: A Critical Factor in the Map for Success - Cynthia Barnes-Boyd RN, PhD, FAAN -- 1.8 contact hours

3:15-5:00 p.m. House of Delegates & Award Presentations

5:00-5:30 p.m. Meet the Candidates (for upcoming delegate elections)

7:30-9:00 p.m. Reference Committee Hearing

7:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. "Introduction to MEMO - Mobilizing and Educating Members for Organizing" - Terri Peaphon, RN

Saturday, October 6, 2001

7:30 a.m.-9:00 a.m. Conference Registration

8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. MNA Delegate Voting (only delegates vote)

ANA Delegate Voting (all MNA members may vote)

9 a.m.-?? House of Delegates

After House: Board of Directors Meeting


Peter Buerhaus, PhD, RN, FAAN, is the Associate Dean for Research, Professor and Valere Potter Distinguished Chair at School of Nursing. Buerhaus has published more than 30 peer-reviewed articles, numerous book chapters, and various papers on a variety of topics concerned with the nurse labor market and the health care system. Prior to his appointment at Vanderbilt, Buerhaus was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation faculty fellow in health care finance at The Johns Hopkins University and for eight years the director of the Harvard Nursing Research Institute.

Linda J. Stierle, MSN, RN, CNAA, a nurse leader with more than 30 years diverse management experience in health care operations, is the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the American Nurses Association. Stierle retired as a Brigadier General in the United States Air Force Nurse Corps. She began her military career in 1970 as a staff nurse in intensive care. Stierle earned a master's of science in nursing from the Uinversity of California, San Francisco.

Suzanne Gordon is an award-winning journalist and author who writes about health care, nursing, and women's issues. She is the author of five books and numerous articles. Her latest book, written with Bernice Buresh, From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public, was published in the summer of 2000. She is Adjunct Professor in the School of Nursing of McGill University.

Cynthia Barnes Boyd, RN, PhD, FAAN, is Assistant Dean for Community Initiatives and Director of Great Cities Neighborhood Initiatives for the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her responsibilities include developing, directing and monitoring community initiatives and partnerships on behalf of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr Boyd's research has included studies addressing social and cultural contributors to infant mortality, service utilization barriers, cultural alienation and health problems of importance to racioethnic groups.


Continuing education credit has been given special priority at the 2001 convention. Contact hours will be awarded by educational session. Requirements for successful completion include attendance at the entire session and completion of the evaluation form for the session. MNA is accredited as a provider of continuing education in nursing by the American Nurses Credentialing Center Commission on Accreditation.

MNA Convention Exhibits

MNA convention exhibits include the latest in technical, scientific, educational, and recruitment products and services. Don't miss them! A box lunch is served in the exhibit hall on Thursday and Friday. Convention exhibit displays do not constitute endorsement of the products by the Michigan Nurses Association.

Keeping You in the Workplace

Would you like to be part of a study to explore working conditions and how this influences the aging workforce? At convention, you will have an opportunity to be interviewed. The interview is unstructured and allows you to respond to what workplace conditions (physical/ergonomic, social, organizational) would keep you in the workplace. If you are interested but do not wish to be interviewed, there will also be an opportunity to give written feedback at Convention.


The Somerset Inn in Troy, Michigan, is the site for this year's convention. The hotel is holding a block of rooms for convention participants at a special rate. Call them at 248/642-7800 to reserve your room. Please identify yourself as attending the Michigan Nurses Association convention to receive the special rate.

The Somerset Inn is conveniently located just off I-75 on Big Beaver Road at Coolidge in the center of Troy's business district and next to the magnificent Somerset Collection.


"Tell me more about Nstat. I am not familiar with that. "

ohhhhh just look at what youre missing out on. Its something we ANA members are involved in. Theres a lot of things about the ANA that non-members are unaware of. This is one of them:

"Politics in Action: About N-STAT

Health care reform. Patients' rights. Access to care. From the Capitol to the White House, health care is at the top of the political agenda. With so much attention focused on these issues, it is critical for nurses to speak up - about quality patient care, adequate staffing, safe workplaces and the multitude of concerns you and your colleagues face every day. Who better to advocate to Congress about the need for quality health care than those who are on the front lines?

It's time for nurses to speak up! Want to make a difference and have your voice heard? Then join N-STAT, the premier grassroots network for nurses.

ANA's Nurses Strategic Action Team (N-STAT) makes it easy for you to join with your colleagues across the nation to let lawmakers know how you feel! N-STAT is comprised of thousands of nurses around the country who stay informed on issues and contact their legislators about pending issues. ANA, through Legislative Updates, keeps you up-to-speed on key bills as they move through the legislative process. Then, through Action Alerts, we let you know when your e-mails, phone calls and letters will make the most impact.

The nurses of N-STAT are the power and strength behind ANA's lobbyists on Capitol Hill. You provide the grassroots power to show Representatives and Senators how nurses feel on the issues that impact you and your patients every day. Every State Nurses Association member is eligible to join N-STAT. If you'd like to join, send an e-mail to [email protected] or call Doretta Hood at (202) 651-7094 or fill out our online form.


Does it sound like the N-STAT Leadership Team might be for you? N-STAT Leaders are appointed by their State Nurses Association to be the key contact person for a U.S. Representative or Senator. The N-STAT Leader is the "point person" for the lawmaker on nursing and health care issues. During election years, the ANA staff relies on N-STAT Leaders to interview candidates in their district and states and provide the ANA with advice in the endorsement process.

N-STAT Leaders are a visible representative of nursing within the community, participate in moving nursing's legislative agenda, and become influential with their lawmakers. N-STAT Leaders also get to know ANA's political staff in Washington, as well as other nurse leaders. All Leaders receive an orientation kit, as well as a free subscription to Capitol Update, ANA's biweekly legislative and political newsletter.

If you'd like to be considered for the N-STAT Leadership Team, contact us via e-mail at [email protected] or call Doretta Hood at (202) 651-7094 or fill out our online form."

http://www.ana.org/gova/federal/politic/nstat/gnstat.htm "

THANK YOU! This is the kind of stuff I am looking for. I am most definately interested, especially in Nstat. I will be making phone calls and finding out more. Time to come home I think.

"This is the kind of stuff I am looking for. I am most definately interested, especially in Nstat. "

I knew that. But you have to be an ANA member to be in it. And people would rather shoot down the ANA than talk about all the good things it's accomplishing & has to offer us or all the pro-active things our relatively small group of the nation's nurses are doing, so it really wasnt discussed much here but this program is not new. Its been around for a while. Remember when we did the Political Campaign Activity Night simultaneously in communities across the country last October? I posted about that a few times. That was an Nstat & PAC event. Most of the legislators & candidates who were running for office & were supported by their Nstat leaders & state PAC for being pro-nursing/healthcare were elected. Imagine what we could accomplish if we stopped criticizing the past & just got it all together? Hasnt anybody ever wondered why so many STAFF RN members of the ANA are so supportive of it here? Must be something to it, dont you think?

Going to join Julie. I have found that I absolutely need to be working with other like minded people in an area that is nearby me. I am making plans for going to the convention, by the time it is held I will be a full member of the MNA. The convention looks like something I definately want to be a part of, the speakers themselves are going to worth listening to.

After having done some research I find that the MNA is a different organization then when I belonged to it several years ago. It is definately more proactive, and it is the proactive part that I think is needed. About a month ago a doc I work with called me just to let me know that the Attorney General of Michigan had issued an opinion on mandatory overtime, which was there was no existing law that would support it in Michigan. He heard this on the radio and thought initially that meant that mandatory overtime was going to be made illegal. I called the radio station that he had heard this at so I could get the whole thing as he had not heard the beginning part of it, and what the whole thing was about was that the MNA had gone to the Attorney General and asked for an opinion on the issue from her. I may be wrong but I think what may happen is that the MNA may be bring a test case to court. I'm thinking at least something on those lines because I don't know why else they would ask for an opinion from the Attorney General.

I now feel raring to go, and work wherever I can be of the most assistance. Just need to contact the right people and find out what I need to be able to do.

Thank you again for the encouragement, while we may not have always agreed, you have always given me food for thought. Maybe someday we will be able to meet, hope to have another thing in Washington, I really enjoyed my time there. My little town is a great place to raise children, but it doesn't do much for my need for a bit of culture and good restarants. By the way if you ever get back to Washington I found a wonderful restarant quite by accident called RT's. It has been named one to the top restaraunts in DC for a number of years, small and very friendly. After eating there I can see why they have garnered so many awards. And the owner told me the speaker of the house eats there frequently, felt bad I missed him as he had been in earlier. Not above introducing myself and talking a bit, LOL.

Keep educating me, my ears are a bit more open now.

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