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Nurses at North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale are on the front lines of a battle for safe staffing and safe care that could have a major impact on MNA members and patients throughout the state.
North Memorial management wants to cut nursing staff to dangerously low levels by increasing the number of patients each nurse cares for in the majority of units in the hospital. Nurses are fighting the plan at every step of the way.
“Our patients deserve the best possible care,” said North Memorial MNA Co-Chair Mary Turner. “In our professional judgment, this plan could increase the number of patients to unsafe levels.”
Initial discussions with management were challenging enough to spur North Memorial MNA nurses to the next level – informational picketing on June 24.
“It’s critical to raise the public’s awareness about threats to safe staffing and patient care at North Memorial – and at hospitals throughout Minnesota,” Turner said. “North Memorial is not alone in putting the bottom line ahead of patient care and safe staffing. It is up to nurses at the bedside to advocate for our patients by opposing this dangerous plan now and every time – and everywhere – management attempts something similar.”
All-nurse meetings at North Memorial to discuss the situation have been packed. While clearly expressing overwhelming solidarity to oppose the proposals, members also shared disturbing experiences about current staffing and patient safety levels. Nurses are being told – or required – to care for more patients and work more hours, even before the new plan is implemented. Nurses have been routinely telling management that the staffing situation is unsafe, but managers respond by telling nurses to “flex up” or “make do.”
“In the last five weeks, there’s been intense pressure to flex up, flex up, flex up,” said RN Dee Anderson. Her geriatric patients take more time than younger people, so Anderson can’t give the kind of care she’s used to.
“It makes me feel pressured and inadequate in my nursing,” she said. “If I feel I have to do more than I know I can, patients are cheated of the care they deserve – and that really hurts me.”
Floating charge nurse Melissa Hayes filed a Concern for Safe Staffing form after a recent night where she was required to care for extra patients and getting no response to her requests for staffing from management.
“Lights are going off, phones are ringing, it’s not okay to leave patients hanging like that,” she said. “I want people to be honest about what’s expected and answer our calls. We really need the support.”
North Memorial nurses are proud of their hospital and want it to “provide the gold standard of care” it always has, but cited other recent concerns:
- Floors that are short of nurses are required to take patients who have not been assigned.
- Nurses are working dangerously long shifts – and then expected to stay longer. One nurse worked three 12-hour shifts with only a short break and then was asked to work even longer.
- Nurses are so worried about their patients that they stay by the telephone when others are on break to make sure people are cared for.
- Patients are often “stacked up in the lobby” because there are no rooms for them.
- Nurses frequently find themselves taking care of six patients or more at one time, which doesn’t give them enough time to properly care for anyone.
“In 2010, North Memorial and other area hospitals agreed to work with nurses on staffing,” said North Memorial MNA co-chair Trent Burns. “If the hospitals don’t live up to their promises to nurses, how can the public trust hospitals to live up to their promises to deliver quality care?”
The June 24 informational picketing will show management that nurses are united against the plan – and that there is widespread public opposition.
RN Kate Drusch said hospital leadership needs to hear a message: “It’s a collaboration of compassion and care to serve our patients and communities so nurses provide safe care,” she said. “We’re all partners together in patient care.”
MNA nurses throughout the state are encouraged to join the picketing to not only halt the plan’s implementation at North Memorial, but prevent other hospitals from attempting a similar ploy.
SEIU Healthcare MN, which also represents North Memorial staff, is partnering with MNA on this event.
Nurses and supporters will picket from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on public sidewalks surrounding the hospital. Volunteer to join the informational picketing.