June 01, 2010 | | Comments 5
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June 1 nursing strike postponed; National Nurses United prepare for June 10 strike

June 10 could mark the largest registered nurses strike in U.S. history if nurses from California and Minnesota cannot reach an agreement in contract negotiations. Originally scheduled for June 1, nurses in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN, rejected pension and labor proposals from the hospitals, and believed there was no other option but to strike the day after their contracts ended.

Now, as many as 25,000 nurses are set to strike on June 10 over patient safety in U.S. hospitals. Thirteen thousand nurses in California and 12,000 in Minnesota are set to strike, even though each strike was not coordinated to fall on the same day. All of the nurses are members of the National Nurses United, the nation’s largest professional association and union for nurses. The nurses are also members of the California and Minnesota Nurses Association.

Nurse-to-patient ratios are the cause of the strike, as nurses seek to establish and improve ratios in states like Minnesota, where there is no law citing such ratios should be upheld.

In addition to nurse-to-patient ratios, the nurses are also striking to protect their retirement benefits, which they argue will help with the retention and recruitment of experienced nurses.

What are your thoughts on the National Nurses United strike? Does your state have a law requiring certain nurse-to-patient ratios? Does your facility offer protection for those nurses looking to retire soon?

Source: Minnesota’s Online News Source and PR Newswire

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Filed Under: Career developmentHot topicsImage of nursingRetention


Sarah Kearns About the Author: Sarah is an Editorial Assistant in the patient safety group at HCPro, Inc. She contributes to two monthly newsletters; Briefings on the Joint Commission and Briefings on Patient Safety, and manages four e-zines; Accreditation Connection, AHAP Staff Challenge, Nurse Manager Weekly, and Healthcare Training Weekly. She also helps research new products for the patient safety and nursing market. She graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2008 where she earned her bachelor's degree in English.

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  1. How can anyone believe that this strike was not coordinated to be on the same day? The two organizations and the collective bargaining arm of both organizations have been tightly working together since the 1970’s when Minnesota went on strike. Having the strike on the same day will make it harder for hospitals to get replacement workers and to make contingency plans for patient safety.

  2. If hospitals continue to refuse to absorb data collected from numerous sources, including federal regulators, medical and nursing research all of which note the frequency of near and fatal in-patient deaths and injuries then as the last safety net for patients, nurses MUST call them to awareness. A planned strike in which hospitals are given advance notice so they may plan for continued patient care may be a solution. Let the nursing administrators, including the Chief Nursing Officers, directors and managers get out on the floors to provide direct patient care when they are short staffed and they will quickly see how understaffing not only impacts the patients but the nurses as well. For all the changes that have impacted bedside nurses during the past 3 decades none have improved the nurse to patient ratios except where mandated by law. Nurses have been given exceedingly larger and more complex tasks, including un-Godly documentation to prevent litigation when unsatisfied patients decide to sue. Why are patients unsatisfied or injured???? Because the nurses assigned to them have many other patients to care for so the time alloted to each may be 10 minutes per hour or less. This is insanity! Bedside nurses must stand united to protect our professional careers which includes providing the very best patient care we can. If the hospital requires a strike to listen to reason…this is their choice.

  3. I’m not sure what these nurses consider “understaffing” but if nurses were truly concerned about patient care and safety, striking would not even be a consideration – to strike seems more like abandonment simply for self gain rather than for what is best for the patient and the community served. In today’s economical situation and with the proposed health care reform coverage and reimbursement changes, many hospitals will struggle to remain financially solvent. This combined strike decision seems entirely pre-mature, especially in an environment of continued employment instability and overall economic unsurety. Surely this could have waited to see how the reform laws will affect us.

    Our state does not have a law requiring certain nurse to patient ratios. In my opinion, such laws only propose to adversely affect the already shaky outlook for health care providers and give credence to additional unnecessary lawsuits when there are call offs that cannot be covered or unexpected, often temporary, increases in patient care loads. At our facility, we try to pull together to get all the work done and the patients cared for (and that includes nursing administration helping out).

    Something else for consideration – when the nurse patient ratio is below the law requirement – are nurses willing to be sent home due to less available work? Hospitals run on a rule of averages. Staffing is typically scheduled to cover the average daily census so when the case load is higher, it is noticeable and when the case load is lower, it is easier. Many nurses want the benefits of a lower nurse-patient ratio in the form of fewer patients assigned or additional staffing supplied, but then they are unwilling to stay home when they are not needed. This may not be the case for these hospitals, but we experience it in our region.

    What a tough situation. Hopefully, a reasonable agreement can be reached before it’s too late.

  4. Why is California striking when they have legislatively mandated nurse/patient ratios? I guess in sympathy since they are all in the same union.

  5. I agree that the strike had to be planned for both which means that they had to have known it would fall on the same day. This is only going to make the patients suffer more and have more issues with safety. I understand that administrators need to be made aware of staffing shortages, but is this strike really the way to do it. It will only hurt the patients.
    I also agree that the administrators should help out on the floor when staffing is short, however, how many of you would actually feel confident in the care that your CNO could provide at the bedside. I feel that this is part of the problem. We (I say we because I am in management) as management and administrators need to be able to go out there and help our staff if they need us. Unfortunately, that is not the case for most hospitals.
    My state does not have mandated patient ratios, and I hope they never do. I do believe that there needs to be open communication between the floor staff and administration though. One thing that no one has mentioned is the support staff. We fight for better nursing ratios but no one fights for the aide ratios to improve. No, they cannot do our documentation for us, or provide the skill that we can, but they do help us get our jobs done. If you have an aide that has 15 patients and a nurse that has 6-7, how do you think every patient bath will get done or the V/S will be taken on time? It has to be a team effort and I think everyone loses sight of that.
    I am very fortunate to work at a 20 bed 100% physician owned surgical hospital. My nurses have a 5:1 patient ratio no matter what day of the week it is, days and nights. They also have a charge nurse that does not take patients. Our aides have a 5:1 ratio in the day time and max at 10:1 at night, and that is only because we do not have admissions at night. Yes, if someone calls in and we cannot find a replacement the staff end up with a slightly higher patient load, but that is only if I am on vacation or out of town for some reason. Because my staff know that I can and that I am willing to help there have been a few times when they could have used me but decided to just pull together as a TEAM and get it done. That is what we need to get back to TEAMWORK. We as nurses cannot do it all by ourselves, it takes everyone working together.

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