Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Karen's duty

I guess you could say that nursing was in Karen's blood.  Her mother, Erin, was an RN at Windham hospital.  Karen volunteered there in high school and although she enjoyed it she decided to pursue a career in Information Technologies.She graduated with a degree in computer science from the University of Connecticut.  She and James were married, they had met in high school and had been together since then.  They settled into family life. James has a good job with a local aerospace firm, he is an aircraft assembler, he builds parts for planes and helicopters. The pay and benefits are good, but when contracts are finished there are often layoffs for a few months before the next contract gets rolling.Karen landed a good job in the computer field but 2 years later the company closed its office and moved overseas.  Karen looked for something more stable and nursing was starting to look better to her. She enrolled in the UCONN bridge program and struggled but finished as an RN.  A full one half of her class dropped out before graduation.  Her first son, Gregory, was born shortly after graduation.  She interviewed and was accepted at both Backus and Windham hospitals.  She chose Backus because her mom was still at Windham and she didn't want to be Erin Cory's little girl.  She settled into the life of an RN, working Med Surg.  She enjoyed it, the pay and benefits were good, which was important with Jim's on and off work. She studied hard and became Board Certified in Medical Surgical Nursing.  She told James that taking the test was like taking her nursing boards over again.  One added plus was that the certification gave her an extra bonus every year from the hospital in recognition of her experience, education, dedication, and hard work. Three years ago her second son, Alex, was born.  Life was good for her little family.
At about the same time her hospital underwent a change in upper management, the CEO retired and a new CEO took over.  There was no reason to expect any big changes. Her small community hospital was 114 years old, financially stable, and well respected by the community and the health care industry.
The new CEO had new ideas.  He hired and outside firm to come in and see if they could make Backus more profitable.  "Changes are coming to the health care industry and we need to be proactive".  The hospital was put on a "Pay for Performance" plan.  Changes to pay and benefits amounted to about a $6000/year decrease for Karen, more for others, and their insurance plan had been weakened.  Previously it had been free to be treated at Backus. Now it cost for everything.  Advanced certifications, once held in high regard, were dismissed. In addition, the quality of supplies had decreased.  Karen and others felt it was impacting patient care and also felt that upper management would not listen to them. In investigating other hospitals Karen found out that if she had taken the job offer at Windahm, a union hospital, she would be making $4/hour more than she is now. She also found out that at the union hospitals nurses support each other and work with management to improve the hospital. Some RNs had called one of the nurses at Windham and they started forming a union at Backus, so that they can decide what is important to them and speak with one voice.  Karen's hope is that by speaking with one voice the nurses will be able to bring their hospital back to where it once was and even better.  Karen sees this organizing as her duty, as another step in her vocation, to care for those who need her help

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