Sunday, June 29, 2014

A nurse's gift

As I watched Robin care for my mom, I was reminded what a gift it is to be a nurse.
She spoke to mom with respect, sometimes getting a response, often not. She listened to lungs and heart, inspected skin and pulses, checked IV drip rates and lines, re-positioned mom and everything else we do day in and day out. 
She filled me in whenever there was new information, interacted with the many doctors of a teaching hospital, and chatted with me about work. 
Nothing unusual, all in a days work. 

But, something very special was taking place. 

In addition to Robin giving mom and us a gift of herself, we were giving Robin a gift. 
We were placing the care of our mom in her hands. 

Families place the care of their most precious processions, their moms, dads, children, siblings, and loved one in the hands of people whom, often, they have just recently met. 
That is amazing. 
That is the gift families give us as nurses. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sad day as hospital child care center closes

This week marks another sad day in the history of Backus Hospital.
The child care center, operated on the grounds of the hospital, is closing, in a cost saving measure.

Healthcare is still a predominantly female profession, and child care responsibilities still remain predominately a female responsibility.
For 29 years, parents could bring their children to work, knowing that if their child needed them, if they were ill, or scared, or just missed mom or dad, they were but a few minutes walk away.
Often, parents would drop in at lunch and the children would come and visit departments dressed in costumes on special occasions.
These events were always warmly greeted by employees, patients, and visitors.
Those days are gone.

The child care center was a great employee benefit that the hospital felt it could no longer afford.
It was financed through employee payments for the service and some hospital subsidies.
Like all hospitals, Backus is looking to trim expenses, as evidenced by their financial records provided by the hospital to the state Department of Public Health.

Being a not for profit hospital, Backus has an Operating Margin, not a Profit Margin.
Last year that margin was $35,533,000.
The top 10 salaries at Backus last year totaled $5,270,515.

While these are healthy numbers, hospitals are concerned about the uncertainty of the future.
Hospital employees, and their children, are concerned about the uncertainty of the future too.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I found Room 3

"Where's the lady from room 3?"
I looked through the open room 3 door....empty.
The Physician Assistant's question was a good one.

I had been kind of busy.
You see I was working Convenient Care (known as Fast Track or Urgent Care in some hospitals), and I was the only nurse, without a tech, due to a call out.
Convenient Care is supposed to be quick in and out visits, nothing complicated, but I had all 9 rooms full with 3 IV's going and one admission.
Naturally, room 3 was the admission.

The PA called XRay, who had taken room 3, and inquired what was taking so long.
"You brought her back how long ago?"
This was going from bad to worse.

The PA was out the door, muttering how room 3 didn't seem like the type of person who would just walk out.
While she was gone, it hit me, why was the door on room 4 closed?
I knocked, opened and there was the lady from room 3, sitting patiently on the stretcher.

You have to understand, from out side the room, they all look the same.
And, from inside the room, they all look the same.

We hadn't lost our patient, just misplaced her.

That would be the end to a humorous story, except it isn't.
Hospitals are being run with less staff each passing day.
This area was staffed by 2 nurses and 2 techs not long ago.

There is great economic pressure placed on healthcare, from the outside and from within.
From the outside, governments are being run leaner than ever and insurance companies like the money they take in and would just as soon keep it in their pockets.
From the inside, hospitals are a for profit business (even the non profit hospitals) and the people who get to make the decisions seem to end up with the profits.

Now if someone starts a mom and pop business with their own capital and sweat equity, and does well financially, then good for them, they took the risks and put in the work, they deserve the rewards.

I don't know anyone who built a hospital from the ground up with their own money, their own risk, and their own sweat.

I know business is business, it's the way of the world, and and all that.......
but this is healthcare, this is people's well being, and we shouldn't be misplacing patients.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Connecticut Moment

Delivered to the Connecticut AFL-CIO convention
John Brady
Local 5149
Backus Federation of Nurses
I rise in strong support of the nomination of our friend Governor Dan Malloy.
3 years ago a small group of nurses started to meet in secrete in a borrowed hall in Norwich, afraid that we would be discovered by our own hospital. Dan Malloy came to us. He told us he supported our efforts and the right of all workers to collective bargaining.
That visit gave us courage and and led to a successful organizing campaign of 400 Registered Nurses. When the hospital refused to bargain in good faith, Governor Malloy called the CEO and pressured him. Then he came to our rally, stood on our flatbed, looked across the street at the hospital and said, Get a contract, get it done!
Last year, he, Nancy Wyman, and the entire administration stood once again with organized labor on the streets of New London, saying to the hospital, you are not L+M, We are L+M!
I believe this Governor, always a supporter of collective bargaining, has grown over the last 4 years in his appreciation of organized labor.
He has stood with us in the cold and the snow of our picket lines. 
What message do we send politicians across this nation if we do not stand with him now?
My brothers and sisters, in this day of Scott Walkers and Wisconsin Moments, in this day when even Eric Cantor is too liberal to win his primary, let us stand in solidarity and send a message to the nation; the AFL-CIO is alive and well in Connecticut.
Let us show the nation the power of organized labor working in solidarity. Let us show the nation a Connecticut Moment.
I strongly endorse the governor, the Lt Governor, and the entire administration. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Grandpa's House

My grandparent's house was an old three story, needed for the size families back then.  It was a place to gather with cousins and aunts and uncles, it's yard was our playground for games of tag and hide and seek. No one ever user the front door and no one ever knocked or rang the bell. It was a constant flow of relatives into and out of and through the home.
There was an upright piano in the living room and though I never remember anyone playing it, I remember many wooden handles and pictures of my dad and uncles on the top.  Latter in life I would come to understand those hammers were gavels from my grandfather's years of service as president of the Rhode Island state senate, and my dad and his brothers were all in there uniforms from the second world war.
My grandfather was retired and would spend most of his time in his living room chair, in front of the TV, watching the Red Sox, and my grandmother in the kitchen, entertaining and cooking.
I never remember discussions of religion or politics but it was here that my core beliefs developed.  They taught through example more than word.
The gavels and the pictures were an example of service to state and country.  My grandmother served up love of family in the kitchen.  Somehow, without lecture, I was taught that discrimination was wrong, that we had an obligation to treat all with respect and dignity, that we had an obligation to work hard, to serve and help our neighbors, and that everyone was our neighbor. I was taught that I was a Catholic Irish-American and to be proud of that, but that people of other ethnic backgrounds, religions, or color, were different, but not inferior.  I was taught that I could disagree with another's political views but I had an obligation to allow them their view, and in fact an obligation to defend their right to express it. I was taught to oppose hatred, bigotry and bullying in all it's forms. I was taught that not all of us have the same advantages, and that it was our responsibility to help those who had less.
My grandparents knew some powerful political people of their time, and they would sometimes visit for Sunday meals, but these people understood their obligation to use their position to help, not dominate others.
I know I sound like an old-timer speaking of the good old days, but I am not, I am speaking of a future that is possible if we want it. A future where service to others is our guiding principle.
It is what I and my cousins learned at our grandparent's house, it is a part of us.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Our voice is strong when we speak as one

I have written previously about my Local's special relationship with the AFT Locals of L+M. They sometimes refer to me as the 5th L+M president.
I guess that makes me the "Billy Preston" of the group. (the 5th Beatle)
I hold this relationship close. Their members and leaders are special to me. Their presidents, Lisa, Harry, Stephanie, and Martha are my close friends.
Truly, if you mess with one of us, you mess with us all.

Recently, I've been meeting with the leadership of Windham and Natchaug Hospitals unions.  We are all part of Hartford Healthcare and we are all AFT Locals.  We meet to discuss common issues and solutions, so that we can better represent our members and care for our patients and students. 

We have built special relationships with the other unions of southeastern Connecticut, with the other AFT Connecticut Locals, and with AFT Locals across the country, though our membership on the AFL-CIO Labor Council, the AFT CT Healthcare council and executive council, the AFT national Small Unions Task Force and the NFN welcome orientation.

We have also built friendships with political and community friends, like the Governor and the United Way.


Some may see their union's role as negotiating wages, benefits, and working conditions and they would not be wrong, but we must be more than that.
We must be the voice for the patient who cannot speak, the student who struggles with learning, the mother who works several jobs to put food on the table, the immigrant who seeks a better life for his children through the sweat of his labor, the person discriminated against because they are different in some way.
We must be the voice that says greed is not the American Way, that compassion and fairness are, and will always be.

To do that we must be strong, and to be strong we must be united with those who believe as we do, and we must speak with one voice. 
We will never have the money that the priviledged special interests have,  but we can have the numbers, we can have the votes.

That is why we reach out and form these freindships, because together we can do amazing good.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

"Today you saved a life"

As I looked around the now patient less room, I saw papers and empty IV bags, and tubes and a crash cart that had been ransacked.
And I saw the young nurse I was working with, 6 months out of school, standing in the middle of it all, tears coming down her face.

She had held it together long enough to do her job and do it well.
She had been there for our patient and their family as well.
Now she let her emotions out.

I walked to her and hugged her.

"You did well today", I said.
"Today you saved a life."

Being a nurse is tiring, physically and emotionally.
Fighting for nurses is tiring at times as well.
We do it because of something deep inside of us.
We do it for patients and families.
And we do it for each other.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Laid off

"You look awful!"
My wife wasn't being mean, she knew I hadn't been able to fall asleep until 2:00, got up at 5:00, and had just returned home after a busy shift in the ER.
She was concerned.
"You can't take on all their pain."

But how can I not?

I have lived through too many layoffs in my own pre-nursing life.
I know the pain that comes when you are told your work no longer has dignity.
Right or wrong, a large part of our identity comes from our work.
It's more than a "job", it's  way we provide for our families and how we contribute to society.

70 Backus Hospital employees, my brothers and sisters, are feeling that pain right now.

I was informed Monday in my role as nursing union president.
None of my nurses were laid off, but many whom we work along side of were.

Our hearts go out to them, they are family, they are our brothers and sisters.
I have contacted our friends in the United Way, and they are currently looking into how they can help.

I want to personally thank those laid off for their dedication and service to the community.
You will always be family to us.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Dilemma of the Teacher

My last blog concerned the internal conflict that pulls at the very soul of the Healthcare worker.
Torn between the internal needs to both care for others and do it in a loving, professional, and thorough manner; and the demands of an industry that seems to be shifting from a philosophy that it is in the business of healthcare into one that is a business that just so happens to be in healthcare.
Many people identified with my thoughts, and not surprisingly, one of the largest group was teachers.
A Nurse is an RN, LPN, etc, but a nurse, with a small n, is anyone in any of the caring professions, healthcare, education, public service, etc., people who have a calling, not a job.
Teachers definitely fit this description.  Teaching the youth of today has to be something that only someone with a calling can do. Like healthcare, they increasingly have to do more with less, and sometimes, they have to do "what they can" not what their hearts tell them they want to do.  This tears a person's soul. Yet, to walk away is almost unthinkable.
I also have a friend who works in the state court system, as a social worker in the public defender's office.  Her calling is to try to help piece together lives of young people who have gone down a dark road, usually with the help of a substance abuse issue. 
Day after day she does this, often in failing attempt, but when successful, she literally saves lives.
My Union, AFT, calls itself a "Union of Professionals".  We include education, healthcare, and public service. My social worker friend is AFT, many teacher friends are AFT.
We ARE a union of professionals, but we are also a union of care givers, who provide that care in many settings, hospitals, schools, homes, court houses, and wherever we can make a difference.
AFT does not stand alone in this, we stand with many sister unions and non union brothers and sisters in the "caring professions," who do not have jobs but have callings, and increasingly we are asked to do more with less, and it tears at our souls.