North Memorial Medical Center nurses protest unsafe staffing plan

11 Jun
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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.”

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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.

2 Responses to “North Memorial Medical Center nurses protest unsafe staffing plan”

  1. Concerned Nurse June 24, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

    I find it interesting that when a nurse goes on break the other nurses on the unit sit by the phone to make sure people are cared for. To me it seems like more patient’s will not be cared for because there are 2 nurses not caring for patient’s. Nurses who do not take breaks are compensated for that, if they really want to take a break there is a way for them to do so, it’s really infrequent that a nurse is not able to take a break. Nurses being asked to work longer than their shift are asked if they would stay, I can’t believe they are made to stay, it’s always their choice. If a nurse feels their assignment is unsafe whether it’s 2 patient’s or 6 they do not have to accept that assignment. I never hear the nurses present real workable solutions to fix the problem, they always want more. Patient saftey is always at the for front for everyone involved. By the lack of media attention to the informational picketing it seems obvious to me that the public is tired of the same old complaint from MNA and no solutions.

    • aajjsister February 5, 2015 at 2:18 pm #

      Do you really work as a nurse. If you do, I don’t know where you work but I will tell you this: I work taking care of patients. I frequently get no breaks and I am not compensated for not taking a break. I do not get uninterrupted lunch yet my pay is deducted for 30 minutes of time. I think what the nurse meant by saying she “sits by the phone”is that the other nurses watch the patients assigned to the nurse who is on break.
      And yes, there is always an option of not staying….of course you will stay to keep your job. As for refusing an assignment…well, you can.. but you may be fired. As far as a real workable solution….don’t give more work than can be done. Nurses are people…not machines.
      Nurses are not machines. There is a maximum amount a nurse can do within a given period of time. The solution again is to not give more work than can be done by a human being. A human can only work so fast.

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