Sunday, April 17, 2011


My mother always says there are two sides to every story.  I hesitate to disagree but maybe sometimes there is the truth and .....

I think the difference between a conversation and a lie is that a conversation is two sided, with mutual respect and a lie is not.

When I first meet a patient in the emergency room I introduce myself and ask them how they are.  In a short period of time I need to find out why they have come in, what their concerns are, what their expectations are, and what their history is. It needs to be a two sided conversation, as opposed to........

Do you drink alco....NO!
The answer comes before you can finish the question.
It is so common for patients to lie about alcohol intake that nurses automatically double the answer.

Don't lie to me!

This process of forming a union has involved many amazing conversations with people, in the hallways of Backus and in living rooms and kitchens.
I have learned about their lives, about their families, about their hopes and dreams. I think I've become a better listener in the process too. I have heard the concerns of people in my department and of other departments. Some of the concerns are similar and some of them are different. I've come to know a little better what it's like to work on a different shift or a different department, and what it's like to be of a different age group or family situation.

I've come to realize something very important; my coworkers are thoughtful, intelligent people who really care about what they do.

Our administration talks endlessly about thier open door policy, but we're still waiting for our meeting with David Whitehead. 

We have been told many things recently:

We don't need a "third party ".

Except Wellspring and Jackson and Lewis.

"At Backus, we believe that each employee already has a voice "

What kind of voice did our LPNs have?

"Every other department likes the new IV catheters."


"If the union comes in such and such will happen."

The union doesn't "come in ", we've been here all along because WE ARE THE UNION!

"If you want to talk about the union you need to punch out and go in the break room."

It's our right to speak freely and you just broke the law by telling us otherwise.

"The union will make all kinds of promises, get it in writing ".

The overwhelming majority of us have put our one and only promise, to stand together, in writing, by signing cards.

I truly believe the difference is this -

I and the other organizing nurses have been having conversations, and administration for all their talk of opening a dialogue has not.

Just the other day, I had a conversation with a nurse in the ED.  She is not in favor of the union.  I was offering her a "Proud to be a nurse" button. I told her that I would not be offended if she covered the union emblem with white tape. She graciously accepted the button.  We had a nice conversation, she shared an experience from her past that explains her union stance.  She is a wonderful nurse, she is a great patient advocate, she is a great teammate.  We both want the same thing for our patients, our coworkers and our hospital, we just disagree which is the best course to follow.

But we had a conversation!

I did not tell her how to think, she did not tell me how.

I don't think there is a nurse in our hospital who doesn't want what's best for our patients, our families, our selves, or our hospital.  Yet, we do not all agree on how to get there.  But we are intelligent people, we do not have to be told what to think.

The hospital administration wants to make your vote between the administration or "the union" but it isn't.  Hospital administration is not on the ballot and they don't get a vote.  The election is between whether or not we want to join together as a group of nurses or whether we want to continue as individuals who happen to work in the same building. 

We have a wonderful young nurse in our department, Kate, who has been active in our effort.

One day we were both asked a question about our union by a third nurse in our department.  As I started to open my mouth to answer she started this wonderful conversation with that nurse.  I just sat back and observed. I felt such a tremendous pride, in her and in our profession.

This organizing effort is like a micro version of our union.  There are so many people sharing the work.  We are all listening to each other and coming to a consensus.  It is not being driven from someone sitting in an office, it is driven by us.  Right now the organizing committee are the leaders, eventually each department will have representatives and together they will be the leaders. Our leaders will not sit in an office and dictate, they work with us and for us.

What do I want? I want what we all want, a GREAT Backus Hospital, where patients and staff are treated with respect.  Do I have all the answers on how to get there? No, but together, we do! And we'll discover the answers though conversations.

It all starts with conversations, not lies.

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