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Why we need unions...or to get out of medicine

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by KalipsoRed21 KalipsoRed21 (Member)

4,162 Visitors; 144 Posts

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I have spent 11 years as a nurse. I have had the experience of floor nursing, tele, cardiac step down, emergency, travel, infusion, and now home health. I wish I could tell you I felt the $47,000 dollars I invested for a BSN were worth it, but I don’t. I, after 11 years as a nurse, would tell you to change your degree or take a lower paying job in any other career field job at $10 an hour to start. In the long run you probably will be happier and end up with greater income potential. In 2008 when I started as a tele floor RN, I made 20.47/hr which was a dollar an hour more than anyone who came to the position never being a nurse aid prior to their first RN position.  I now make $29.71/ hr as a home health nurse. I do not get mileage, as they gave me a car. I feel that is important to note because so many want to try to inflate the benefit of getting paid mileage when it is menial. Not to mention the hours that I spend charting without getting paid because when I actually clocked in all my hours I would get in trouble. So, as with ALL of my nursing positions, it is expected that I get 60 hours of work done in 40 hours of time even though that goal is not realistic. And if I continue to clock the hours it actually takes me to do the job at the expectations that have been laid before me by the organization and the oath I took, I will continue to get in trouble by my employer for not meeting expectations.

For those who wish to say, “Well maybe you are just not successful at nursing.” “Maybe nursing isn’t your cup of tea?” I am a very successful nurse. I have had awards at 4 of my positions. I have never been fired, or been written up even. But the continued disrespect of my time AT EVERY POSITION I’VE HELD in the name of nursing being a career of ‘sacrifice’ is a lie fed to us to increase profits and screw patients. 

Yes, I LOVE my patients. The thought of failing them and leaving them to this crappy world of medicine is a large reason I stay. But that reason is starting to fade. The realization that the only people I can rely on is my family and I cannot continue to let my oath to my patients continue to impede that precious little time I have to spend with them. Especially when that time is to propitiate a machine that is allowing patients to become more entitled and less considerate about what I sacrifice to serve them. Or to be used as a cog to increase profits for hospitals or insurance companies while my wages stagnate and my patients suffer due to the all to common expectations to do more with less. 

It is not worth it. If you cannot be a salesman for medicine or think of people as dollar signs, then do not go into medicine. If you think you will make a decent living and that the school debt is worth it, it may be, but only if you start with an associates degree or plan to go into management 2 years after you get your BSN.

 I wish I could advise you differently. I wish I could tell you that all the sacrifices you made to get where you are were meaningful and will lead you to great things, but I can’t. For most of you it won’t. The idea that nursing is a ‘calling’ is a subtle way to keep us under paid and permanent scapegoat for the field of medicine. The only thing to improve these conditions would be unions. We have to fight for fair pay and reasonable job expectations and the best way to do that is unified.

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3,893 Visitors; 88 Posts

Well, I can say I feel the same way, but have only been a nurse for a little over 5 years.   Thanks for sharing.

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Daisy4RN has 20 years experience and specializes in Travel, Home Health, Med-Surg.

1 Follower; 1 Article; 6,215 Visitors; 934 Posts

I am sorry that you are having a hard time and feel that way, but i am not at all surprised. It is very sad for me to see how bad the healthcare environment has become, and mostly everywhere. I also left the hospital for home health and quickly burned out, at one point i finally added up how much i was making (with the non-paid  charting hours and phone calls, mileage, etc) and found it was close to minimum wage! I agree with what you say but not sure that a Union alone would solve the problems. I worked for a facility with a Union and there was not much difference. I think gov. mandates help.  Wishing you well!

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myoglobin has 11 years experience as a ASN, BSN and specializes in ICU, trauma, neuro.

3,615 Visitors; 478 Posts

Unions are not the whole answer, but they are certainly part of it.  Even in Florida at an HCA hospital the unions at least propelled the hospital to play by "some of the rules some of the time". Before unions people would be floated according to the whims of the manager, some people would get vacation requests and others would not according to the whims of the manager. Some would get written up and some would not "according to the whims of the manager".  At least with unions there is some basic "due process" and managers and administrators actually sometimes think about inane policies before implementing them anyway.  To me the best answer is multifactoral:

a. Strong unions

b.  California nurse to patient ratio laws.

c.  A move back towards non profit hospitals away from for profit ones.

d.  Strong nursing advocacy and NP groups that lobby for legislation that protects both patients, and nurses.  If nurses can unite at least moderately we are potentially stronger than most other legislative forces in the United States and can enact real change.  That is why when groups like the ANA doesn't even support California ratio laws, that I am so frustrated.  

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JadedCPN has 13 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Pediatrics, Pediatric Float, PICU, NICU.

1 Follower; 7,117 Visitors; 671 Posts

In my 13+ years, I have never worked for/been a part of a union and it has been just fine. That being said, I have chosen to work at large, dedicated, ranked pediatric teaching hospitals across the country and I believe that has worked out very well in my favor in regards to staffing, ratios, and overall working environment.

I would suspect absed on what I've read and heard that if I worked in an adult hospital I would most definitely want a union on my side.

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llg has 40 years experience as a PhD, RN and specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

5 Followers; 58,136 Visitors; 13,064 Posts

Sorry to be picky ... but I can't help it.   I've never had a career in medicine.   I chose nursing instead.

I've had a 40+ year nursing career and have mixed feelings about unions.   The hospital I worked for that was unionized had one of the worst "climates" I have ever experienced.   Staff and management were enemies -- open warfare.   However, the pay and benefits I earned were the highest I have ever had.   Was that extra compensation worth the poisoned atmosphere.  I'm not sure.

The best places I have worked have not been unionized.   The management was not perfect, but it was reasonable.   The same was true of the compensation -- not great, but OK.

If I were working in a terrible place, I would definitely vote in favor of a union.   But if I were working in a place that was decent, I would be happy with decent and not invite a union in.

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myoglobin has 11 years experience as a ASN, BSN and specializes in ICU, trauma, neuro.

3,615 Visitors; 478 Posts

1 minute ago, llg said:

Sorry to be picky ... but I can't help it.   I've never had a career in medicine.   I chose nursing instead.

I've had a 40+ year nursing career and have mixed feelings about unions.   The hospital I worked for that was unionized had one of the worst "climates" I have ever experienced.   Staff and management were enemies -- open warfare.   However, the pay and benefits I earned were the highest I have ever had.   Was that extra compensation worth the poisoned atmosphere.  I'm not sure.

The best places I have worked have not been unionized.   The management was not perfect, but it was reasonable.   The same was true of the compensation -- not great, but OK.

If I were working in a terrible place, I would definitely vote in favor of a union.   But if I were working in a place that was decent, I would be happy with decent and not invite a union in.

The problem is that “the terrible places” proliferate and operate at a competitive advantage over the “better” places. For example my hospital’s CEO gets a significant bonus if he can cut operating expenses EACH year by at least 20%. This is in spite of gross revenues that have roughly doubled from around 1.6 billion to 3. 4 billion from 2014 to 2018. All at a midsize hospital serving a relatively poor largely immigrant community. This is the HCA way, and if nurses don’t like it they will just bring more into the country on H1B or similar Visa’s and hold them in effective economic slavery or hire new grads and hold 5k penalties and two year contracts over their heads. The “good” hospitals in the area struggle to compete against such tactics.

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

10 Followers; 33,494 Visitors; 3,218 Posts

On 6/13/2019 at 12:36 PM, llg said:

Sorry to be picky ... but I can't help it.   I've never had a career in medicine.   I chose nursing instead.

I've had a 40+ year nursing career and have mixed feelings about unions.   The hospital I worked for that was unionized had one of the worst "climates" I have ever experienced.   Staff and management were enemies -- open warfare.   However, the pay and benefits I earned were the highest I have ever had.   Was that extra compensation worth the poisoned atmosphere.  I'm not sure.

The best places I have worked have not been unionized.   The management was not perfect, but it was reasonable.   The same was true of the compensation -- not great, but OK.

If I were working in a terrible place, I would definitely vote in favor of a union.   But if I were working in a place that was decent, I would be happy with decent and not invite a union in.

It's easy to bust a union:  treat people properly and they'll see no reason to unionize.  I suspect the union didn't cause the poisoned atmosphere at the one hospital; I would bet they unionized because of management hostility.  It wouldn't improve that, but at least set some rules for how management has to treat employees.

The work places that were decent didn't need a union.

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