Sunday, March 30, 2014
Backus Nurses are finding their voice, and that's what it's all about.
We're serving on the hospital staffing committee and attending redesign meetings, and we're having an influence.
We're testifying before the Connecticut Public Health Committee on safe staffing legislation and regulations for community hospitals selling to for profit companies.
We're attending meetings with Senator Murphy, Congressman Courtney, and Governor Malloy, and they respect our members and our positions.
We're serving on the state AFT Healthcare Council and Executive Council, the AFL-CIO Labor Council, the Department of Public Health advisory board, and the national AFT Small Unions Task Force.
We're working with community groups like the United Way.
We're marching with our L+M brothers and sisters,
We're meeting with the hospital's vice presidents of HR and patient care services to find ways to work in collaboration where we can.
It's happening because multiple members are stepping forward, each doing what they can, and because we have proved we are an organization committed to having a voice for ourselves, our patients, and our families.
Three years ago, we invited Judy Benson from The Day newspaper to our office and we went public with our intentions to unionize. I remember her asking why we were doing it, and what we said that night is as true as ever,
A nurse, and for that matter, any health care worker, cannot advocate for their patients, without a voice.
We have that voice.
Monday, March 24, 2014
We call them heroes.
This past year, we in southeastern Connecticut were witnesses to just this type of service.
When L+M Hospital attempted to circumvent the law and move work out of the hospital and then deny the unionized workers the right to follow that work, three such heroes emerged.
Lisa D'Abrosca is a nurse and president of the RN Local 5049.
Stephanie Johnson is a sleep technologist and president of the LPN/Tech Local 5051.
Harry Rodrigues is a health unit coordinator and president of the healthcare workers Local 5123.
On their own time they visited their political representatives in Washington, Hartford, and locally to explain the plight of their workers and the community.
They met with and explained the situation to community, faith based, and labor organizations.
They testified before the NLRB.
And when even all that was not enough, they led their members on a four day protest strike, which was followed by a three week illegal lockout by the hospital.
Representative Joe Courtney described that strike and lockout by saying the eyes of Washington and the nation were on New London.
Political friends, Organized Labor, faith based and community groups all came to the aide of the workers.
The building trades cooked breakfast and lunch on the picket line, the Elks a spaghetti diner, the firefighters delivered Santa, and the AFL-CIO delivered the presents. Members from all different kinds of unions and non union workers joined the picket line. Coffee, donuts and pizza when freely donated and often delivered.
It might have been cold on the line, but it was warm in the hearts.
So many did so much and from all the message was the same, "I am L+M!"
I am blessed with a relationship with Lisa, Stephanie, and Harry, which allowed me the ability to see some of this from the inside. These three heroes are both human and super human. They carried the weight of their 1600 members and families on their shoulders and could not allow the strain to show.
They grew into leaders not just for their members, but for workers and communities across this country.
And they asked nothing for themselves.
They love their members, their hospital and their community.
So, when AFT began accepting nominations for it's "Everyday Hero" award, I nominated my three heroes as a group.
In reality it's a nomination of them, their members, and all the people of the community and the nation who became involved in this struggle.
Starting today, I ask you to log onto http://www.aft.org/everydayheroes/ and cast a vote for my heroes, our heroes.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
I wish you could walk in my shoes for a day.
How they cry with a family at the birth of their first born and hold the hand of an elderly women as she breaths her last breath.
They are there when the young father asks, "what do I do now?" after a young mother dies in a car crash or from cancer.
They reach out to each other for hugs of support and then go home exhausted and hug their own children and spouse, fully understanding how precious life is and how important a role they play in it.
Being a nurse or other health care worker is not means to make a living, it is a way to live a life. A life dedicated to the service of others.
I am passionate about the nurses I represent because I walk in their shoes. I hug and cry with my 20 something year old colleagues after they have worked for hours to resuscitate a newborn and have failed. I pray they have the strength to recover and continue in a vocation that is, for them and those like them,
I am passionate about the care of our patients and passionate about the health of our community hospitals, because after 20 years in the emergency department, these are my patients and my community hospital.
There is nothing more essential to a nurse's ability to fulfill her mission than the ability to freely advocate for her patients.
This bill would protect that ability to advocate by requiring any for profit corporation to commit to maintaining certain staffing levels and collective bargaining requirements and this would protect our patients and our community hospitals.
Please help me help them.
Please protect our patients and our community hospitals.
Please support SB460
Thank you and I am at your service to help in any way I can.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
My Brother Ole recently gave me a book, "I Wasn't strong like this when I started out, True stories of becoming a Nurse"
In the cover he wrote, "Brother John, Keep writing!, In solidarity, OKH.
Ole came into my life through a friend, Mary Ann, who called one day to inquire how things were in the ER.
Long story short, she introduced me to Ole,
and he gave me my voice.
Ole became my blog editor, but more than that, he guided me to be able to speak out for nurses and our patients in the hospital, at the state capitol, and in Washington. He led me to the point where I have a voice on the national labor stage and an understanding of the responsibility and opportunity that brings.
At the same time, he has helped me remember that nothing is as important as the one to one interactions with another nurse or a patient.
Nothing so important than listening to a young nurse vent at the end of a hard shift about how frustrating it is to give, and give, and give, and then.......
To be asked the most insane questions such as why did it take you 40 minutes to call a patient back on a positive blood culture? When the nurse was up to her elbows in short staffing, being in charge, and cardiac arrests, and the blood cultures were from 4 days ago!
Today I can sit across the table from anyone advocate for my nurses.
I can demand we be treated with respect.
I am no longer afraid, no longer intimidated.
Today I can advocate for patient safety in Hartford or Washington.
And I can joke and laugh with my patients to ease their fears.
Today I can write my stories about the way of life I have come to love.
Today people read and care about my stories,
and about my nurses,
and about our dedication to nursing and our patients.
No, I wasn't strong like this when I started out.
But then I met my Brother Ole,
and he helped me find my voice.
Monday, March 17, 2014
Saturday, March 15, 2014
however, remains the same.
Today is the feast of St Joseph, the carpenter and the foster father of Jesus.
St. Joseph, the patron saint of workers.
If the early life of Jesus was like that of other boys of his time, he would have worked at the side of his father, learning the skills of a carpenter, learning to work with his hands, learning the pride that comes from crafting something out of raw material, learning the satisfaction of producing something that will enhance the lives of others.
Maybe it was because his hands touched the wood and the tools, that he could later touch the hearts of so many.
St Joseph taught him the dignity of work.
He taught him that all people deserve to be treated with respect.
Today, the tools and the work setting have changed, but Joseph's lessons still hold true.
There is dignity in all work.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
My old car has served me well, but 13 years is 13 years.
As a proud member of the Nation Writers Union, UAW Local 1981 and as an AFT Local president, I knew it was the right thing to do.
Our field rep, Greg, was helpful in this.
I recommend all my members keep these discounts in mind.
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Have you ever worked through lunch because to take lunch would leave your unit short staffed, your patients vulnerable, and your coworkers unsafe?
Have you ever put off a restroom break, for hours, till your bladder felt like it was going to explode?
Have you ever been injured because there was not enough help to move a patient or care for one out of control?
Have you ever had to call home and apologized because you would be late again because "the place is a zoo and I can't leave my friends and the patients like this, someone will die."
If you're not in healthcare, have you ever heard stories like this from your healthcare friends?
It's the nature of the business is the message we are given, times are tough, hospitals are hurting.
This Monday, tommorrow , there is a committee vote in the Connecticut legislature. If it passes, the bill will go for a vote, if it fails, the bill will die. The bill simply requires hospitals tto report to the state on a quarterrly basis what their staffing ratios are. They are already collecting this data by law. It does not require any ratio, simply a reporting of them.
It's a small but important step, for nurses, for heathcare wrkers, for patients, and your the families of patients.
Please help us.
Take 5 minutes. Sign on and send a message for a yes vote tommorrow, and then share this with your friends.
So often we feel helpless.
We are not.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
I was one of 6 people speaking in favor, another nurse from Backus, two nurses from L+M, our state federation president (also a nurse) and our state fed 2nd vice president.
Many others submitted written testimony.
Speaking against it were two women who said they were nurses, one an executive in the Hartford Healthcare system and one in the Yale Heathcare system. The represented the Connecticut Hospital Association and the Organization of Nurses Executives Connecticut.
The proposed bill would require hospitals report their staff to patient ratios to the state on a quarterly basis. This is data they already collect and must have on hand for state inspections.
It would not require them to collect any new data and would not mandate any staffing ratios.
The nurses told stories of unsafe conditions due to being so overwhelmed that they could not properly care for their patients. They told of being so overwhelmed that hours could go by before they could check back on a patient. They told of working 16 hour days because they felt guilty if they didn't, guilty of leaving their coworkers and patients short staffed. the told of shifts with no lunch breaks and only two bathroom breaks.
Those speaking against the bill said it would be a "burden" on the hospital to have to report the data they already had, and if they did, they didn't see how this data would help the state.
I sat there and thought, "That's the best you can do?"
In a way, I feel for these two "nurses." I imagine they entered nursing management in an attempt to help our profession and our patients. I also imagine that now they are in a position where they cannot always say what they might like to, but rather, must deliver the "company message."
As I sat there and listened to my brothers and sisters speak of the care they wish they could provide to their patients, if only they had the resources needed,
as I watched our state federation officers speak on our behalf,
as I witnessed the respect the legislators grant our officers and our nurses,
...let's just say I am proud to be on this side of the equation,
proud to be a bedside nurse,
and proud to be a union nurse.