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Florida dumps surgical standards after failing hospital donates to GOP

26 Jan

By Mathew Keller RN JD, Regulatory and Policy Nursing Specialist


In a decision that has shocked pediatric surgeons across the state, Florida recently repealed a 38 year-old rule establishing state standards for pediatric cardiac surgery. The decision comes on the heels of a scathing investigative report by CNN, which found that St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach had an abysmal record in performing pediatric cardiac surgeries—including a death rate three times the national average.  St. Mary’s was also failing to meet the state’s quality standards, which include proficiency in performing the surgeries as well as a mechanism for outside physicians to conduct an expert panel review of such surgical programs. The rule also established standards and criteria for staffing, minimum physician and facility volumes, and data reporting for hospitals that perform pediatric cardiology surgery.

Florida doctors and medical experts were strongly against the repeal. Louis St. Petery, a pediatric cardiologist in Tallahassee and former executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told CNN that “The whole situation is outrageous. It’s just outrageous.” William Blanchard, a pediatric cardiologist and former medical director of the Nemours Children’s Clinic in Pensacola, stated at a hearing on the standards that getting rid of them is “both poor public policy and poor politics.” Jeffrey Jacobs, a professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins, further argued that the standards “are necessary to protect the vulnerable children with heart disease.”

For those who wonder why Florida repealed its standards despite the strong opposition of the medical community, look no further than the contributions of St. Mary’s parent company, Tenet Healthcare, to Florida governor Rick Scott and the legislative majority GOP party. In fact, Tenet has donated more than $200,000 to Governor Scott and the GOP over the last several years. David Nykanen, a pediatric cardiologist and member of the state’s Cardiac Technical Advisory Panel, pointed out to CNN that Scott has been in office since 2011 and his administration never objected to the standards until a Tenet hospital was found publicly not to meet them. “The coincidence is just a little too much,” said Nykanen, co-director of the Heart Center at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. “It’s just a little hard to swallow.” In fact, the standards have been in place since 1977, and many physicians pointed out that they served as an example for other states such as Pennsylvania, which has similar standards for pediatric cardiac surgery.

So what does this mean for us Minnesotans? For one, it’s a warning. If you think something like this could never happen in Minnesota, you are wrong. Big corporate healthcare is alive and well in our state, and as corporations like Fairview, Allina, Mayo, Sanford, Essentia and others swallow up their competition, they become bigger and bigger players on the political scene, wielding outsized influence at the capital with their brand and their political contributions. We have seen big corporate healthcare advance its aims more and more through the legislative process, not necessarily in the interest of what’s good for Minnesotans, but rather what’s good for their bottom lines.

Community EMT, the nurse compact, telehealth, and so on.  It’s not Minnesotans advancing these issues, it’s big corporate healthcare. When Minnesotans hear that a bill is being pushed by Mayo, or any of the other large corporate healthcare players, we tend to automatically assume that it is good for us and in our best interest, but we need to dig deeper and uncover who big corporate healthcare is actually looking out for. We as citizens must remain vigilant, because what happened in Florida could happen to us.

Single Payer Healthcare Becoming Big Part of Debate

19 Jan

By Rick Fuentes

MNA Communications Specialist

Rick Fuentes- Minnesota Nurses Association

Rick Fuentes


It was no surprise to hear Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders declare his support for Single Payer healthcare during last weekend’s Presidential debate.  Sanders has long been a proponent of a system that creates “Medicare for All.”  That model would cover everyone in the country through a publicly-funded agency that paid for services to every provider in the country.  After all, Sanders’ home state of Vermont adopted a Single Payer system that covered almost everyone in 2011.  Green Mountain Care, as its called, was due to be fully implemented by 2017 (it’s since been put on hold indefinitely).


What’s surprising now is the state of Minnesota is finally studying the idea.  Last year Governor Mark Dayton appointed a 29-member Health Care Financing Task Force to study how to improve delivery and reduce costs of patient care – from prevention to treatment.  On Friday, January 15, the task force voted to adopt 30 measures to recommend to the Minnesota Legislature.  One of those is to study the costs and outcomes that would be generated by a Single Payer system and compare those with the current model.  You Can read about the task force’s findings here at the Minneapolis StarTribune or the St. Paul Pioneer Press.  If lawmakers adopt the study idea, it would be the state’s first look into how to dramatically affect the way healthcare is both paid for and delivered.



Rose Roach, MNA Executive Director and Minnesota Health Care Financing Task Force Member

“The issues raised within this task force have made it very clear that we must deal with financing the system before we can begin to deal with the care delivery issues,” said MNA Executive Director and Task Force Member Rose Roach. “We need to move to a place where people get the care they need when they need it, and we save money overall.”


Of course, lawmakers will have to enact the study and the other recommendations of the task force to start to move Minnesota toward better healthcare.  As the articles above state, that might be tough in a legislature where Democrats have the Senate but Republicans control the House.  As bedside witnesses to what works and what doesn’t work in healthcare, nurses have a collective and respected voice on how to improve it.  Lawmakers need to hear that unified voice.


“As nurses, we see patients who waited too long to get care, and now their conditions are more severe,” said Mary C. Turner, MNA President in a press release last week. “The health of the patient impacts the health of the community. When patients can get the care they need, it saves their families money. It saves businesses money, and it helps the state budget too,” Turner said.



Nurse-Endorsed Candidate Jim Abeler Wins Republican Primary

13 Jan
Minnesota Senate candidate Jim Abeler

Minnesota Senate candidate Jim Abeler

MNA-endorsed candidate Jim Abeler won an important Republican primary for the special state senate election in Senate District 35 yesterday. Abeler now moves on to the special general election on February 9, to replace Senator Branden Petersen, who resigned his seat.

Issues that directly affect our profession – like attempts to allow others to do registered nursing work – are decided in the political arena. To ensure that our voices are heard in those deliberations, MNA endorses candidates who stand with us on the issues. MNA is proud to support Jim Abeler.
Jim is a chiropractor and former Republican State Representative from Anoka. MNA nurses endorsed Jim several times for State Representative, and we have worked well with him on nursing, health care and labor issues. We know we can count on Jim Abeler to stand with us on issues of nursing practice and patient safety.

Abeler takes time to talk to nurses at North

Then Representative Jim Abeler with MNA nurses at the 2014 informational picket at North Memorial Medical Center.

MNA nurses conducted phone banks to nurses in SD35 and are pleased that we played a small part in Abeler’s win.

For nurses who live in SD 35 (Anoka, Ramsey and parts of Coon Rapids), please get out to vote for Jim Abeler in the general election on February 9. Polls will be open from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm. To look up your polling place visit

Minnesota Nurses Head to Iowa to Doorknock for Bernie

5 Jan


FullSizeRender[3] It was a lovely day in Iowa this past Saturday. I along with Pat Webster were door knocking for Bernie Sanders. IMG_0450 copy

We came up to this house and the folks there insisted that we come in and sit a spell. The house was very modest surroundings but these folks were so thrilled to be talking to us nurses, it was heart warming!

I couldn’t help thinking that Bernie Sanders is the kind of President that is needed to help those who don’t ask or expect anything from the government but who need it the most. Barb Martin and Jean Ross were out on another route.

We all had a very rewarding day, and despite having to climb my share of icy stairs after recent knee surgery I will be going again the end of January. When I will once again meet more delightful Bernie supporters. IMG_0451 copy

Hope you can join me,

Mary C Turner

President of Minnesota Nurses Association


Apply for MN Board of Nursing, other public service opportunities

4 Nov

MNA Political Organizer, Geri Katz

By Geri Katz, MNA Political Organizer

Have you ever thought about serving the public beyond your day-to-day job? Applying your nursing expertise to public service in order to make the public safer in different health care settings throughout Minnesota?

The State of Minnesota is always looking for interested and engaged citizens to serve on state boards and councils. Several have designated positions for RNs.

The one most nurses are most familiar with is the Minnesota Board of Nursing, which protects the public’s health and safety through regulation of nursing education, licensure and practice.

Two RN positions, one APRN position, and one LPN position, on the Board of Nursing will open up in 2016. Governor Dayton will fill those positions. The time commitment, approximately 150‐175 hours annually, includes monthly meetings in St. Paul and ad hoc committee meetings.

Several other board or council vacancies call for an RN or a union member as well. Here’s the full list:

  • Minnesota Board of Nursing: two RN positions, one APRN position, one LPN position;
  • Maternal and Child Health Advisory Task Force: “professionals with expertise in maternal and child health services;”
  •  Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities: one nurse representative;
  • Minnesota e-Health Advisory Committee: one nurse representative;
  •  Medical Services Review Board: one Registered Nurse Alternate;
  • Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Council (Appointed by Commissioner of Labor): two labor members, one Occupational Health professional;
  • Occupational Safety and Health Review Board: one labor member;
  • Public Employees Retirement Association: one retired annuitant;
  •  State Advisory Council on Mental Health: one Registered Nurse.

These are all appointed positions, some of which will be competitive. MNA staff can help you through the application process if you want a chance to serve.

They are all great opportunities to put your nursing experience to work in a new setting, learn more about how state government affects nursing and health care, and be a part of the team that makes decisions about our future.

If you are interested in learning more about any of these opportunities to serve the public, please contact Geri Katz.

MNA congratulates 2015 award honorees

9 Oct

The Minnesota Nurses Association honored members and friends who advocated for nurses, patients, our communities, and the nursing profession in the last year at our annual Honors and Awards Banquet on October 5.

Congratulations to all!




MNA Executive Director Rose Roach on AM950

25 Sep

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 9.46.39 AM

Listen to MNA Executive Director Rose Roach talk about nursing and health care on @AWomansPlaceMN @AM950Radio.  Or listen below.  mp3 player required.

#nursesunite against The View

21 Sep

What did we learn from the controversy around The View and Miss America contestant Kelley Johnson?  That #nursesunite, and they mean business.

Patients and Nurses at the Minnesota State Fair

20 Aug

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Retaliation is a real issue in nursing

31 Jul

Nurses throughout Minnesota know of instances of employers intimidating and retaliating against staff for a wide variety reasons, like reporting unsafe staffing,  speaking up when they disagree with a program or pilot, reporting managerial unethical or illegal behavior, engaging in union activities, and many more.

These types of incidents can cause managers and administration some headaches, but they are all part of the ebb and flow of the employer-employee relationship. Unless, of course, the employee is punished for legal and ethical actions.

Unfortunately, retaliation in the workplace is all too commonplace – and not just in hospitals.

For nurses, the opportunities for retaliation are higher than in many other fields. In addition to issues with employers over the way they conduct business, nurses’ licenses require them to follow an additional set of rules that often contradict their employers. They are responsible for ensuring that every assignment they accept is safe for the patient, refusing overtime if they don’t feel safe, and reporting situations in which a patient is injured or in grave danger.

Because of that, the opportunities for “disappointing” the employer increase in the nursing field, as are the opportunities for retaliation.

Some recent examples show that retaliation in the healthcare field is not improving:

  • The National Labor Relations Board issued a formal complaint last October against North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale for harassing and intimidating staff for their participation in an informational picket calling for safe staffing levels. The hospital fired one employee, revoked work agreements and forced employees to work weekends, “repeatedly interrogated” staff about their union activities and falsely claimed that talking about union activities was prohibited.
  • A nurse at another Metro hospital was recently targeted by management and her CNO for speaking up about a pilot project that she and many others thought was endangering patient safety. After her union colleagues protested, the nurse was asked to “review hospital policy” that she never violated in the first place.
  • After a nurse filed a Concern for Safe Staffing form, she was called into the office and asked why she went to the union with her concerns. The nurse defended her actions, and said her union was the proper place to share concerns. The hospital attempted to terminate her a short time later, but MNA rose to her defense.
  • A nurse who refused an unsafe assignment was berated in front of colleagues, pulled into a manager’s office and berated some more. Other nurses were so upset at the treatment, that they stood up and defended the member.

As you can see, hospitals have many ways to retaliate against nurses and other staff.

The good news is that nurses do not have to put up with this. The law and your union – your colleagues –  are on your side.

It’s illegal for employers to retaliate against you for any concerted activity about the terms and conditions of employment, such as speech or other actions that don’t disrupt the workplace in a private or public facility; and it’s especially illegal for employers to retaliate against nurses for blowing the whistle on a situation that in the nurses’ professional judgment risks patient safety.

If you have experienced workplace retaliation, share you story with us.