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    Thursday, June 17, 2004

    Strike: The nurses at my hospital are on strike. This won't endear me to any of them who happen to read this blog, but my first thought when I heard they were thinking of striking was, "Who would notice?" Admittedly, I thought this after a tortuous weekend of call when I heard too many times from nurses calling me about a hospital patient, "Oh, I don't know, the nurses' aide is taking care of him."

    As in "Mr. Jones has a fever of 102."

    "How's the rest of him? Is he shaking with rigors, is he awake and alert and comfortable, or is he lethargic? Is his blood pressure normal, or low?"

    "I don't know. The nurses' aide is taking care of him."

    Granted, this state of affairs is more the hospital's fault than the nurses. They've cut costs by hiring cheaper nurses' aides and spreading the nurses too thin. But, the nurses aren't striking because they want more nurses on staff. They're striking because they want more money. This in a time when other people in healthcare (i.e. doctors and hospitals) are making less than they have in previous years.

    Then, too, there was the union member I saw in action recently. I was seeing a patient on the psychiatric floor. The hospital has two psychiatric units. One for patients who are docile and can be trusted. I was rounding in the other, where patients are prone to violence and attempts to run away. There were three staff members there when I arrived at about six in the morning. Two were running back and forth from patient rooms to the nurses' station taking care of patients. Another was on the phone complaining loudly to the nursing supervisor that someone on the next shift had called off sick and that she was being asked to remain on duty until they found a substitute. She kept mentioning a baby in the nursery she wanted to visit before it was discharged. Over and over again, "the baby, the baby, the baby, not right, not fair," and finally, "I'm calling my union rep."

    By the time I finished seeing my patient and writing my note, the other two nurses were still running their butts off doing their jobs. The union nurse was sitting at the nurses' station working on a cross-word puzzle. What professionalism.

    Of course, she's by no means representative of all union nurses, or even most, but there is a tendency among certain people to misuse the power of the union. And I have to wonder if that isn't being done here. The hospital has been selling off assets at a rapid rate these past couple of years to try to recoup losses, so chances are it doesn't have the money to provide the wage and benefits increases the nurses want.

    And despite my initial cavalier thought, the strike will be noticeable. It's the nurses who make sure medicines are administered appropriately, who make sure surgeons have the proper equipment at hand, and that patients are prepped properly for tests and procedures. And the hospital says it will only keep half of its inpatient beds open during the strike. That's going to hurt. Especially when patients have an insurance plan that requires they go to that hospital and only that hospital. And yet, you can't get blood from a stone. What will the hospital have to cut to meet the nurses' demands?

    UPDATE: On call again tonight, and just got a call from one of the Scab nurses. Would you believe it? She knew everything she needed to know about the patients, and then some.


    posted by Sydney on 6/17/2004 10:02:00 AM 0 comments


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