Nurses were prepared to walk out on job
Nurses working at Essentia Health – Virginia Medical Center agreed to a new three year contract on Tuesday after difficult negotiations resulted in nurses working for more than three months without a contract. Nurses voted overwhelmingly to pre-authorize a strike at the facility prior to the agreement to send the message that they expect Essentia to support nurses and patients.
“We are grateful to nurses for sticking together during a very difficult process,” said Glenn Anderson, RN and Co-Chair of the bargaining unit, “and their support showed Essentia that we expect the employer to honor their promise of creating a a working environment that would attract and retain nurses and protect the quality care patients deserve.” In 2011, Essentia management asked for nurses’ support when it began the affiliation process of Virginia Regional Medical Center, and nurses obliged under the promise that a new ownership structure would improve patient care.
The bargaining unit of 120 nurses, represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association, has been without a contract since July 31, 2013. The unit of nurses voted Tuesday to pre-authorize the strike if an agreement could not be reached.
“Since negotiations began in August, these nurses have stuck together,” said Anderson. “They’ve showed up in force at negotiating sessions to make their concerns known to the employer directly. We were prepared to walk out if Essentia didn’t fulfill its promise to make a first-rate investment in the care for this community. Virginia deserves nothing less.”
Retention of skilled nurses is important because it positively impacts quality patient care. That investment has proven to pay off. Research conducted by Nursing Solutions, Inc. this year estimates that each percent increase in RN turnover will cost the average hospital an additional $331,800.
The contract will pay nurses 8.25 percent more over three years, improve health benefits, and spell out language that sets standards for enough nurses to be on duty to take care of patients and their conditions in various departments.
Budget surplus shows Minnesota in the right hands
Minnesota nurses say a strong state can take better care of its citizens
Lawmakers put the money where it would work for Minnesotans by investing in kids, seniors, and health care and not back into the pockets of corporations. Nurses have long warned that Minnesota can’t keep borrowing its way to mediocrity while the elite few profit from the many.
“The Governor inherited $6 billion dollars in debt, and a school system that had to loan us almost a billion of that. Hard decisions had to be made, and we can see the state of Minnesota is back in balance,” Hamilton said.
Minnesota needs to continue on the path the Governor and legislators set that ensures all citizens are paying their fair share for the services that benefit all of us. Dayton and lawmakers in Saint Paul need to continue to invest in the future of Minnesota, not repeat the mistakes of past policies that put its citizens deep in debt and in cuts to local services.
“The state’s economy is healthy again,” Hamilton said, “and we need to make sure Minnesota citizens stay healthy as well.”
After another session in an eight-month long contract negotiation process ended without an agreement, nurses bargaining with the Allina system are calling for the health care corporation to put the community first. “We are deeply concerned that Allina wants to treat workers in Hastings differently than they do in other parts of the state, and that tactic will affect the care we are able to deliver to our neighbors and friends,” said MNA negotiator Jane Traynor, RN.
MNA nurses from all over the Allina corporate system arrived in Hastings early Tuesday morning to help their new colleagues deliver a message of solidarity on behalf of their patients to hospital administrators at Regina Medical Center. As yet another session began in contract negotiations, a sea of red turned out in support of the MNA bargaining team.
“It’s empowering,” said Traynor. “These have been difficult negotiations with Allina, and we appreciate the support from nurses who have come from other facilities, as well as the nurses who work here.”
Allina swept the once-independent 57-bed regional facility into the corporate fold in September. Even though Regina Medical Center is just 20 minutes away from other MNA-represented metro facilities (including Allina-owned units) that enjoy mature contracts and a pension, Allina administration is offering sub-standard contract terms to the nearly 100 Regina nurses.
Hospital negotiators walked into a room full of determined nurses who stood proudly behind the MNA negotiations teams and voiced their purpose for being there.
“Every patient deserves the same level of excellent health care,” said Mary Turner, RN, a member of MNA’s Board of Directors who works at North Memorial Hospital (a non-Allina facility) in the Twin Cities. “And every nurse in Minnesota deserves to be treated fairly,” she added.
MNA President, Linda Hamilton, RN, BSN who is a pediatric nurse at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, offered a global perspective. “Today, 20,000 nurses in Minnesota and 185,000 across the nation are standing up for what nurses need to care for their patients.”
In addition to Turner and Hamilton, nurses from River Falls Medical Center, Unity Hospital, United Hospital and Abbott Northwestern all turned out in support of their colleagues.
Traynor delivered a petition to Allina negotiators that was signed by three quarters of the MNA nurses in the bargaining unit at Regina Medical Center. The powerful, clear message was headlined “Because our patients deserve high quality care,” and issued this bottom line: “We, the undersigned will not accept a contract offer that makes a second-rate commitment to the nursing care our patients deserve. We demand the same commitment to nursing in Hastings that Allina has made with every other MNA contract in the metro area.”
On Wed., Nov. 13, Minnesota legislators convened a joint committee on Health and Human Services to review process of the Minnesota Board of Nursing regarding licensure and discipline of nursing professionals. MNA submitted written testimony reflecting the organization’s position on the issue.
Senator Kathy Sheran
Representative Tina Liebling
75 Rev Martin Luther King Blvd
St. Paul, MN 55115
Written statement to the Joint Committee on Health and Human Services
November 12, 2013
The Minnesota Nurses Association respects the purpose of this Joint Committee hearing to review licensing and disciplinary processes of Minnesota’s Board of Nursing.
Our organization was founded in 1905 on the mission to protect the public by assuring it that a registered nurse met proper standards of professional practice. 108 years later, we remain dedicated to that principle.
As MNA represents nearly 20,000 registered nurses practicing in the state of Minnesota, we also fundamentally recognize the fallibilities that are bound to arise in a diverse population.
The situation exposed by recent news features regarding illicit behavior by nurses and follow-up discipline by the Board of Nursing is undoubtedly devastating to patients and families. And even though statistics prove these circumstances represent less than 1 percent of the millions of patient-nurse engagements occurring every year in a variety of health care settings in our state, we want above all to be assured of systems in place that prevent future incidences.
We should always want to advance the nursing and improve systems and processes. We urge engaging numerous parties, without singling out for blame any individual, organization, employer, agency – or profession.
We can start by asking questions, and providing honest and reflective answers.
- Does any Regulatory Board have enough resources to maintain the latest knowledge about dealing with Substance Abuse Disorder and other mental health afflictions?
- Do Regulatory Board members have enough time and opportunity to adequately review and discuss cases?
- Are benchmarks in place to provide uniformity in the discipline process
- Does work load negatively impact a worker’s behavior?
An energized group of nurses confronted their boss on Tuesday at Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin, spurred by their determination to achieve a fair union contract. “This agreement helps us protect our patients,” said Bargaining Unit Co-Chair Lynda Smith, RN. “My colleagues will use every tool available to us to advocate for our patients. With a legal contract behind us, we stand up for each other and ourselves to demand what is right for the safety of our patients.”
The 48 registered nurses represented by MNA have been negotiating their contract since mid-August and another bargaining session scheduled for Nov. 8. On Tues., Nov. 5, a significant band of nurses gathered in the morning to deliver a petition the Riverwood CEO, in demonstration of the group’s solidarity. “We’ve been unified all along,” said Smith, “and this helped kick it up a notch.” The MNA negotiating team will go into Friday’s meeting feeling deeply supported and in a position of strength to advance professional gains and fight off management proposals aimed at diminishing workplace benefits and nursing practice protocols.
“This contract is an asset to retain and recruit nurses to this community,” said Smith. “We want to keep it that way so our neighbors can continue to receive the care they deserve.”
Nurses at Regina Medical Center in Hastings are a determined bunch, and they want parity. For now, they’ll take answers. About 30 of them attended the latest round of bargaining talks to meet with management and make a statement that they support their negotiating team.
One hitch: management heard that nurses wanted to attend, and their bargaining team stayed in their caucus room rather than come out and meet them. The employer, forgot, however, that their caucus room has a window to the sidewalk. So, nurses tracked down their meeting room and made their statement through the window to force the employer’s negotiators to turn around and see them.
“They’re disgusted. They’re frustrated. They want it settled,” said chair Jane Traynor. “They were energized about it (the session). They’re disappointed management wouldn’t meet with them and it gave them a taste of what we (the negotiating team) have been going through.”
What nurses have been going through has been the run-around. Despite beginning bargaining in April, nurses learned in July that Regina was being sold to Allina Health, but they’ve heard no explanations about how the sale affects their contract.
Nor have they said anything about Allina’s Metro contract being a model for Hastings nurses, who also work in the 7-county Twin Cities metro.
“Nurses want what Allina nurses have. We are not second rate,” Traynor said, “We have to maintain the same credentials as any other nurse. We deserve the same pay and the same benefits. We don’t want to set a precedent in Hastings to accept less and have that become the rule for Abbott or other Allina nurses.”
Allina just held two mandatory meetings for staff but spent the session showing a PR video about Allina’s mission. Management said they do want to be “compassionate” and “fair” to employees but also that they’re “solidifying” positions.
“That means layoffs,” Traynor said, “People are worried about their jobs. And they didn’t say anything about that.”
Allina also hasn’t made a commitment to the Hastings community. Regina Medical Center’s clinics and hospitals need work, including a new ER, and nurses hope new investment will allow Hastings nurses to take care of their neighbors.
“We have an older population here. It’s difficult for them to go to the (Twin) cities,” Traynor said.
WDIO-TV Reports nurses in Virginia say the hospital won’t retain nurses if their current contract offer stands.
Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association gathered in St. Paul Oct. 13 – 16 to set the wheels in motion of another eventful year ahead. Gathering for the 108th time in the history of the organization, nurses made noteworthy operational changes; attended provocative education sessions; shared experiences during networking opportunities and took time to honor the achievements of colleagues who have made significant contributions to nursing and MNA.
“Our journey ahead will result in the advancement of our nursing profession through the solidarity of bedside nurses,” declared MNA President Linda Hamilton as she welcomed the elected leaders during opening ceremonies of the House of Delegates.
Opening Speeches Inspire
President Hamilton, along with National Nurses Association Co-Presidents Karen Higgins and Jean Ross brought delegates up to date on state, national and global efforts by nurses to address health care and economic injustice issues. “Nurses must stand up and be heard, because silence implies we accept the unacceptable,” said Hamilton. She set out a clear challenge to MNA members to consider running for elected office. “We need you,” urged Hamilton. Higgins relayed her admiration for the nurses of Minnesota and credited us for fueling the energy that is spreading across the nation. “Organizing momentum is gaining throughout the country, as nurses from Texas, Florida and Missouri join our national union. NNU is also on the frontline of pushing for additional research providing more evidence of the correlation between nurse staffing and patient outcomes. “We know the data will help us prove that limiting patients is not only safer, but saves money as well,” said Higgins. Jean Ross painted the global picture, saying “We have an international coalition of nurses connected in purpose.” Referring to the newly-formed Global Nurses United, Ross informed delegates that unions from 14 countries have agreed to work together to stop the harmful effects of austerity measures, privatization and cuts in health care services.
Education Hot Topics
“Everybody’s a storyteller,” according to John Capecci, author and communications coach who encouraged nurses to use storytelling to be better patient advocates. According to Capecci, the five qualities of a good story are: 1) focused; 2) positively charged; 3) crafted; 4) framed and 5) practiced.
Nurses can be effective at telling their stories and affecting changed about patient care if they can explain how the world could be better using the positive message of change even if it’s changing from the sad story they know. He said stories can be effective change agents even if they’re just stories told at a party.
Capecci also advises nurses should know what they want their audience members to do by making goals for each audience and focusing the story to achieve those goals. Nurses practiced their story telling by listing why they want safe patient care in exactly six words. Compelling examples such as “I want you home alive,” and “It’s my responsibility to care,” immediately popped out of nurses’ mouths. Capecci said, as a patient, he was moved to want to help make hospital care better for patients and nurses.
Attendees had the opportunity to get an up-close look at the impact the Affordable Care Act (ACA) might have on health care, the hospital industry and the nursing profession. Heidi Hoechst of NNU described key elements of the Act, and reminded nurses how often the “patient” part has been ignored in the media coverage.
Hoechst pointed out the challenges we already face as different insurance providers choose to define the words “quality” and “affordable.”
Meanwhile, companies are using the ACA as an excuse to cut employee hours. Hospitals, specifically, are not only cutting staff and reducing hospital stays, but are advancing an agenda of de-skilling and the automation of the nursing profession, all in the name of financial difficulty despite soaring profits for hospitals.
Heidi ended on a note that as with any law, changes may be required, but we see this as moving one step closer to true universal coverage.
Rene Cronquist, Director of Practice and Policy at the Minnesota Board of Nursing led a session regarding changes to the Nurse Practice Act which became effective Aug. 1, 2013. Working together with MNA, the Board implemented new policies that help clarify and define role differentiation between LPNs and RNs.
Awards Ceremonies Celebrate Scholarship, Research and Achievement
The stars among us include nursing students and nursing researches who were awarded over $101,000 in scholarships and grants by the Minnesota Nurses Association and the following award winners:
- Rep. Joe Atkins – Political Official Award
- Kava Zabawa and Coral Bastien – Paul and Sheila Wellstone Social Justice Award
- Margaret Dornfeld – Creative Nursing Award
- Joe Howard – Sarah Tarleton Colvin Political Activist Award
- Maxine Patterson – Nurse Educator Award
- Elizabeth Voss – Nurse Researcher Award
- Mary Gag – Mentorship in Nursing Award
- Richard Ames – Distinguished Service Award
- Mary Kirsling – Audrey Logsdon/Geraldine Wedel Economic and General Welfare Award
- Randi Owens – Ruth L. Hass Excellence in Practice Award
- Cynthia Petty – Elizabeth Shogren Health and Safety Award
- Bernadine (Bunny) Engeldorf – President’s Award
Wondering what nurses accomplished last year? Here’s the video from the 2013 MNA Convention. Enjoy and walk tall.