Friday, November 21, 2014

Danbury/New Milford vote Union Yes!

Today, 228 Healthcare Technical professionals found their voice.

They will benefit from this, as will their families, but most important, their patients will benefit.

The Technical professionals of Danbury and New Milford Hospitals voted to join the RNs and become brothers and sisters in the ever expanding family of AFT.
By doing so, they will be able to advocate for their patients and their community without fear of retribution.

I have said it before, and I will say it again, the greatest role of any Healthcare worker, any teacher, any public employee, is to advocate for their patients, students, and the public they serve.

Sometimes this means speaking against those in power.
That is a difficult thing to do when those in power control your paycheck.

Today, our newest brothers and sisters not only found their voice, they joined the voice of the 29,000 members of AFT Connecticut and the 1.6 million voices of AFT, as well as our brothers and sisters of other unions.

I know the courage it took for them to stand tall. I know the hard work it took. I know the level of expertise it took from our AFT Connecticut staff.

To all of you, I say well done.
Never again will you stand alone.
Injury to one is injury to all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Open Letter to the Nurses and Techs of Danbury and New Milford Hospitals

My sisters and brothers of Danbury and New Milford Hospitals,

My name is John Brady and I am a nurse in the emergency department of Backus Hospital in Norwich.
This Friday you have an important decision that will effect your lives and the lives of many.
For perhaps the first time, you have a vote about what happens at your workplace. 
Think about that.
YOU have a vote.
Has that ever happened at work before?

A few years ago we had the same vote at Backus.
Backus had changed.
It wasn't the community hospital that it once was.
Our opinion wasn't appreciated as it once was.
We were no longer caregivers, we had become an  "operating expense."
Our neighbors were no longer our patients, they were "stakeholders."
"Efficiency experts" had come through like a tornado and left a shell of a hospital in their wake.

It was never about the money or the benefits, as important as that is.
It was about having enough staff, enough time, enough supplies and resources and someone who would listen to us, respect us, and engage us in the proper care of our patients.

I'll never forget sitting in the living room of an oncology nurse's home, with she and her husband on the couch.  
We spoke about our common frustrations with the way things had become in OUR hospital and how, if we stood together, we could change that.  As her eyes started filling with tears her hushand took her hand.  
She said, "John, they took away the peanut butter from MY kitchenette to save money.   Peanut butter that I would give on crackers to my patient if I could get their nausea to subside after chemo, When they did that, I said to my husband, I have no hope."
"Today," she said, "you have given me hope."

Are things perfect today at Backus?
But today, we speak freely and advocate for ourselves, our patients, our community, and our hospital without fear.
If you decide to join us on Friday, you will join 10,000 AFT healthcare workers in Connecticut, 29,000 AFT Connecticut members, and 1.6 million AFT national members in being a voice for your patients.

It is your decision, for maybe the first time in your working lives, your decision.
Better than hope, I promise that never again will you stand alone.

In Solidarity,

John Brady
Backus Federation of Nurses
AFT Local 5149

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ebola lessons

This week, I and 2 other Backus front-line ER nurses trained at Hartford Hospital to be Ebola "super users," which means we can now train others to care for suspected Ebola patients and supervise their care of these patients.
The training involved learning and practicing the gowning up and un-gowning (donning and doffing) of the enhanced PPE (personal protective equipment).
It was a well run program and if we carry through with the plan to train bedside staff it will accomplish what I believe it needs to.

Ebola is a virus that spreads through body fluids. It has killed over 5,000 in people in cases that have laboratory confirmation,  and estimates of 12,000 total, this year, including 186 healthcare workers as of mid September.
Enhanced PPE both protects the healthcare worker and limits the chance of spreading the disease. Eradication of Ebola depends on stopping it's spread, as there is currently no cure or vaccine.

Do I think we will see a suspected case at my hospital?  It wouldn't surprise me.
Do I think we'll see a case that is proven to be Ebola?  I hope not, and the odds are on our side.
However, if we do, the results can be devastating if not managed properly.
That is why I and so many others have worked so hard on insisting that front line workers be involved in planning, training and practicing.

I want to thank my union (AFT) leadership, staff, and members, who have been and continue to help us advocate for ourselves, our patients, and the public.
It has been an uphill battle and yesterday was a big step.
Even if we see no cases of Ebola, I don't know of anyone in healthcare who believes this is the last virus of this nature that will come our way.

The underlying theme in Ebola care is to involve front-line staff, take your time, do things correctly, double and triple check, provide adequate resources, practice, practice, practice, and safety, safety, safety.
It is the theme that should run though all of healthcare, but so often, short staffing and the push to see more patients in less time, conflicts with these principles.
We insist that the airline and nuclear industry practice safely, we should do the same with healthcare.

What I have learned from this experience, is that healthcare workers can use their collective voices, can team with the Departments of Public Health, CDC, OSHA, legislators, and the public, and we can advocate for safety in healthcare.
As my good friend Lesa Hanson said when we were organizing, " I once thought a nurse's role was to advocate at the bedside, now I realize we must advocate at the bedside, the boardroom, and the statehouse."

Below is an example of the enhanced PPE we trained with.
You don't learn this in Nursing School.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thank you veterans

It's late, and I'm tired, and I want to be in bed, but I couldn't let Veterans Day go by without saying thank you to the men and women who serve or have served our country.

It is a country that sometimes seems hopeless, unable to get out of it's own way, unable to compromise enough in Washington to get much done, but it is at it's core, I believe, a country grateful to you.

We disagree to the extreme about so many issues: gun control, reproductive rights, the appropriate size and role of government, even our appropriate military role.
But we do so because we live in a country where free speech is a right protected above all else, a right you have fought to ensure.

Retired or active, facing combat or not, overseas or at home, you put us ahead of yourself, and there is no greater gift you can give your fellow man.

So yes, I am tired.  I imagine many of you are too. I imagine instead of a warm soft bed, many of you face or have faced, many cold nights in the field, with little rest.

May God bless you and your service, and may He keep you safe.
Thank you.

Friday, November 7, 2014


This week we had some wins and some loses.
This is my attempt to put my feelings about all this into words:

I've been working real hard, along with a great group of people, on a variety of projects to make life better for my members and workers in Connecticut and across the country.
Ebola, the elections, organizing, community engagement, coalition building between AFT locals and between us and other unions.
It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of energy, by a lot of people.
Frankly, it seems overwhelming at times, and it seems exhausting at times, but never, never, never, does it seem to be not worth the effort.
Sometimes we face opposition from places we expect, like administrations and political parties, and sometimes from places we don't expect. But we carry on because we support each other.
Some of us share close relationships, some of us respect and feel a kinship from a distance.
We may disagree like siblings, but we stand united against opposition.
We win some battles and we lose some, and some we fight to a draw, and some we vow to continue fighting.
Sometimes we reach agreement and cooperation with those who would oppose us, sometimes we have to agree to disagree, and sometimes we have to be a little "bad ass."
We are united in that we fight for a cause, we fight for a movement, we fight for justice, we fight for respect for all.
We are a part of a bigger movement, "the movement", which includes organized labor, and others who share our beliefs that we can do better, that we can be fairer, that we can build a just society built on respect.
To my sisters and brothers in this movement, I want to share my gratitude for your leadership, inspiration, and example to me and others.
I want to encourage you with the words of Timothy:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
And the music of Dave Matthews:
Everyday, I get in the car, sometimes rested, sometimes not, and I push the CD in and listen to the words. I find inspiration in them as I find inspiration in you.