After a large meal at a local diner the waitress approached with a take-home container.
“Do you wanna box for that?” she asked while smacking her chewing gum.
“No,” I answered. “I don’t want to fight for it. If you want it that badly you can have it!”
At the time, I just couldn’t resist the perfect opportunity to serve up this snarky tidbit. What kind of nurse would I be if I didn’t have a touch of tenacity in me?
The great public health nurse and women’s rights activist, Lillian Wald, said: “Although it is not our natures, nurses have always had to fight for what’s right for our patients.” Lillian Wald had tenacity up the WHAZOO!
I agree with her. It’s not my nature to fight. I’d much rather do my job and go home but, if a supervisor calls to float one of the care team or there is a sick call, leaving the department short-staffed a nurse must embody the spirit of Lilian Wald and become a strong advocate for the patients and the staff.
If Lillian Wald just did her job and went home we wouldn’t have the great public health infrastructure, for immunizations, sanitation and basic education for family planning, that we have today.
All it takes is communication skills to cite our clinical guidelines such as the nurse practice act-Title 22 in California, and the acuities of the patient loads to negotiate proper staffing. Otherwise, if there are inadequate nurse to patient ratios no one cares if you miss duty-free breaks or if you have a nervous breakdown from the stress of making sure no one gets hurt.
It’s like this all over the country (especially in states like Florida and Arizona), hospitals constantly short staff units. Why even here in Ventura County, where we have nurse ratio laws, the Ventura Health Care Agency (VCHCA) nurses have been in a bitter fifteen month battle for better staffing ratios and career ladders.
Unpredictable staffing challenges all nursing units. An acuity system, a way to decipher and communicate the levels between critical and stable conditions, needs to be built into our documentation and training that sends constant updates to administration. This would dictate the number and skill of nurses needed to give patients evidenced based care. Having a unit charge nurse out of ratio (without a full patient assignment) would alleviate the general fluctuations in census and acuity.
A huge issue of discontent for nurses is when a new grad gets the same pay equal to an experienced nurse. Many nurses are stuck at the same wages until a cost of living adjustment (COLA) comes along. At VCHCA, it’s been five long years since the nurses got a raise. That means a nurse with one year of experience makes as much as someone who’s worked five, ten, and heck even twenty years.
Women at the turn of the twentieth century had very little options for work outside of the home. Liberation started with women standing together and pushing back against the injustice. Like the nurses of Lilian’s time, modern Nightingales need to come together to walk informational picket lines, craft clever press releases and pitch stories so the public will link (think Face Book, Twitter and Instagram) with a movement to end poor staffing and the disrespect of nursing’s contribution to health care.
I didn’t get into nursing to become rich. I stay because of the wealth that comes from enriching people’s lives. But it’s only fair that after a career of taking care of others I should be able to retire and afford to take care of myself. Recent studies show that nurses’ salaries have finally begun to reach a standard that allows us to live above the poverty line. Many of these pay increases are from the collective bargaining rights we’ve worked so hard to achieve with the help of labor unions. Nurses in California, the first state to align with an all nurse’s professional association which promotes collective bargaining, has the highest paid nurses in the nation.
By standing together and aligning ourselves with our professional nursing organizations, like the National Nurses United, the American Nurses Association, and the California Nurses Association, we will learn to advocate, not only for patients, but for ourselves.
Like a mama bear protecting her cubs, we’ll be able to stop any predators who try to water down health care or dishonor the nurses who put their blood, sweat and tears into saving patient lives.
How about you? Do you wanna box for that? Are you willing to fight for your profession? Can we as nurses afford to just do your job and go home? Get involved in your local chapter. Take action. If you work for VCHCA, go to my Nurses Nurse Face Book page and click LIKE, sign up for the texting tree to get instant messages about our contract negotiations by emailing your cell phone number to: RitaBatchley@theNursesNurse.com (the Nurses’ Nurse NEVER shares her contacts with outside agencies). Get started today by commenting on this blog and committing to a better future for you and our patients.
- Prevention is better than cure (nst.com.my)
- Frost & Sullivan: Healthcare Urgently Requires Business Process Change (sacbee.com)
- Emergency-Trauma Center (njordanblog.wordpress.com)
- New director named for county’s biggest agency (vcstar.com)