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.
By the time you’re reading this all the hoopla is over and the Sea Hawks are home with a Super Bowl ring and an extra $90,000 per player. As a Peyton Manning fan, I rooted for the Broncos; but it goes to show that even one of the greatest quarterbacks of this decade can’t carry the whole game without teamwork.
For the Ventura County Health Care Agency (VCHCA) nurses, who have been bargaining for a contract since December 2012, we know that to be champions of healthcare means more than a gold ring and more money. Winning an awesome contract means safe patient ratios, protecting nurses from crippling back injuries and workplace violence, a career ladder that enhances job satisfaction and improves our ability to recruit seasoned nurses and a healthy public sector hospital system that keeps prices down. Without public sector healthcare, the private sector can charge whatever they want because they will be the only providers in town.
We know we have what it takes to win. We’ve survived Cerner and the onset of Trauma Designation which has more than doubled our work. Like the Broncos we are favored to win, but unless we depend on stellar teamwork, as in the case of the Sea Hawks, we might fall short of championing the greatest success of our careers: self-sustaining language that protects us from being stretched too thin.
Without a contract that takes into account for safety and staffing, the VCHCA will continue to hire new grad per diem nurses at bargain basement prices. These new nurses, while licensed, lack the experience to handle crisis with the competency of skilled nurses. It’s a vicious cycle, we train the new who move on to better paying hospitals and burn-out makes a training program for new-hires a burden instead of an honor. As in football, you can study playbooks until you’re blue in the face, but there’s nothing like scoring that first patient save from disaster.
Football is dangerous and so is being a nurse. Like linemen, we taking crushing loads and work with unpredictable patients who lash out. In the past four years, there have been over twenty nurses out for various bodily injuries and emotional stress. If you don’t believe me, check with Human Resources they’ll confirm the scores who were benched because of the harm done from heavy emotional and physical lifting.
Our state mandates hospitals to provide lift help in terms of policy and equipment, yet VCHCA nurses continue to get injured due to lack of training and gear. We need language in our contract that supports our rights to be safe.
When I think of Super Bowl I think of collaboration (you know those tight ends in the huddle, that’s what I’m talking about). Safe patient care starts with sheer numbers. Proper staffing means having a team to work with. I don’t know any caregivers that can split themselves in two. No amount of money will make up for a poor patient outcome that haunts you the rest of your life. Whenever the hospital is short staffed, nurses need relief efforts from their managers and combat compensation.
Yes we need a career ladder, the overhaul of VCHCA’s antiquated nursing classification system is long overdue. Yet, as a team, I know we’d be selling ourselves short if we don’t win a contract that includes staffing ratios, a nursing protection package and lift language as well.
Join the Team of VCHCA Nurses
EVERY Third Tuesday of Each Month: 7:30-8:30 Santa Paula Hospital Cafeteria 9:00-10:30 at VCMC Cafeteria 12-1:00 at 2240 Gonzales Rd #200 Public Health EVERY First Monday of the Month
I don’t know about you but I cry every time I hear or read Martin Luther King Jr’s, I have a Dream Speech. His words in 1963 still resonate with passion of a world of equality and connectedness where every nurse goes whenever they enter their workplace to care for the sick and needy.
The Caduceus, a more sophisticated sampling of the red cross, has long been a symbol used in nursing, which marks the spot where the sick and injured can be treated without fear of attack. It is the universal sign of neutrality where the most vulnerable have refuge from the fiercest battle lines of hate. Right?
Not anymore. Sadly, the news is full of stories where nurses are being attacked by angry patients in hospitals, children are being gunned down in schools by the mentally ill and the sick of our richest nation are being relegated to half measures because of lack of funds.
Nurses intuitively know that access to healthcare is the universal level for creating equality. Let’s face it, you can have all the money and prestige in the world but if you don’t have your health you can’t enjoy it. If you want to build a utopia you have to start with good health. Disease doesn’t care about the color of your skin or the size of your bank account.
Think about it: In medicine a nurse honors the place in you that makes you whole. A nurse upholds that universal world where you are loved as only one of God’s kids can be loved- that place of beauty that place of truth, that place of light. What an honor to share this sacred knowledge with MLK- the place where all hearts beat as one, the place where each one of us has a special purpose in this world.
King’s gifts of commitment to civil rights and non-violent social change have always been used as guidelines for nursing practice. More than ever, our success must rely on MLK’s dream in order to change this healthcare system that’s dying to get better. How simple to apply his vision of unity and courage to our nursing policy and procedures. Among the standards you might address to your healthcare agencies: Do all our neighbors have access to comprehensive healthcare, including mental health? Are the elderly as nourished as they should be? Are the children physically fit and destined for healthy adult lifestyles? These are just a few possible places to continue our nurses’ crusade for healthcare justice.
It’s time to accommodate King’s Dream, at least on the level of healthcare, and make medical accessibility a reality. Commit to the Nurses’ Nurse Crusade the dream of quality affordable healthcare for all. Forward this to a friend, get others to sign up for a subscription to the Nurses’ Nurse Blog and leave your comments to build a strong nursing opinion that becomes the united voice of reason.
Next up: the latest update on VCHCA negotiations- the work toward Nursing Professional Recognition
I’m always surprised when someone asks: “What’s a Nurses’Nurse? Maybe it’s because I’ve been an RN for so long that my perceptions are biased by eyes that are constantly assessing and looking for remedies to multi-faceted problems. This makes for the assumption that everyone else is doing the same thing and watching out for each others’ backs.
As I explain this expression “a nurses’ nurse”, one more time to a twenty-something-year-old who rolls their eyes at me, clearly my vision of care for the caregiver is not so well understood.
When I study the types of nurse leaders that have come before and the kind I’d like to be, I’m drawn to the concept of a transformational kind (think Cinderella). One that walks the talk, never asks you to do something they hadn’t done themselves (like scrub a toilet), supportive but never patronizing or condescending, comes to mind. A nurse shaman, an enlightened leader who integrates the principles of body, mind and spirit into the next generation of RNs.
Delusional? I think not.
I’ll never forget the time one of my coworkers was promoted to manager, then quickly rose to the ranks of administrator. It was as if she had been struck over the head, as she forgot what it was like to work short-staffed and behaved as if she had never worked as a bedside nurse when we asked for more help. I remember a fellow labor and delivery RN, compadre saying:,”I’m not at all surprised, our manager never was a nurses’ nurse.”
That’s when it struck me: The nursing profession has always been ruled by a set of doctrines that follows a higher law. Why then do we not pertain those laws to each other and behave like a nurses’ nurse?
Is it our “do or die” mentality that stems from the arduous work we are programmed to perform?
As a nursing instructor it was rare for me to find mentors for my students without amnesia, who could remember what it was like to be a budding Nightingale. Most of us have been strong-armed or bullied because that’s the kind of tutelage our superiors came from.
Generally speaking, western medicine has had a longstanding quality that initiates its fledglings with cruel hazing. That’s why we’re often called the profession that “eats its young”. It takes one tough cookie to make it through nursing school.
This attitude which has flowed from a managerial nursing leadership has got to stop if we want true accountable care in the ACA. Again think about Cinderella and how she was transformed by optimism and collaboration.
Ask yourself, “Am I a Nurses’ Nurse?”
If the answer is “no”, google transformational leadership & apply the principles of encouraging and inspiring other nurses into your own practice.
You’ve heard the story: Once upon a time there were two cruel stepsisters and the unfair servitude enforced by an
evil stepmother who abused Cinderella in her own home.
She spent her days slaving over her mean spirited stepsisters. She dreamed of a better life.
By the end of the story, Cinderella is a princess. Her name oozes transformation — going from the dirty hearth to ruler of the kingdom.
Much like Cinderella the nursing profession needs transformation.
Think radical change only happens in kiddie stories? Cinderella’s transformation follows a series of steps that can help you transform the nursing profession if you’re willing to take the action.
They don’t even require a glass slipper or a handsome prince (although that would be nice). Simply a change in approach and the tenacity to believe that nursing can be something different beyond our present circumstances.
After all nurses are a critical component in a growing industry that needs educated caregivers, yet we would rather be relegated to the back burner. It’s time we step forward and take the credit for the awesome job we do to make and keep our communities healthy and safe.
First nurses have got to want it
Cinderella’s backstory started out just fine, but her father remarried, and her stepmother decided her blood relations took top priority.
Cinderella could have remained the victim and resigned herself to her lot, but she didn’t.
When the prince decided to invite all the women of the kingdom to his party, so he could find a wife, Cinderella did everything she could to attend.
It was a long shot. She didn’t have time off, her clothes were a mess, and she was probably having the worst-hair-day ever. How dare she try to attend the ball?
But she had grit. And determination wins the race both in business and in life.
Because change is hard. If you’re going to reinvent yourself, you’ve got to want it enough to put up with the labor pains.
If you’re not getting an embossed invitation to the party yet, do something about it. Don’t just sit there and whine. Come up with a plan.
Then you have to look the part
Her mean stepsisters and mother laughed when Cinderella suggested she’d like to go with them to the ball. She was filthy and dressed in rags.
As soon as they were gone — and with the help of a little abracadabra (after all this is a fairy tale) — Cinderella found herself wearing a spectacular gown.
Here’s the interesting part: as soon as she had the gown on, no one recognized her. Looking and acting the part changed her so completely she became like a different person.
Reality is created by your perceptions. If you don’t represent nursing as a vital profession, or worse yet, you’re invisible- what can you do to dress it up? What can you do to look and act like the esteemed professional you are?
Dressing the part means representing yourself out in the public as a health care visionary. It means writing in to voice your insight to the community. It means claiming your authority and behaving with dignity, instead of the usual whining and griping that goes on behind closed doors.
And it means being bold enough to do something like getting petitions signed, educating the public with editorials, or speaking at town hall meetings about the practicalities of funding more nursing jobs in public health and in schools.
Stand up for yourself
Cinderella made a great impression at the prince’s soiree. Everyone wanted to know who she was and where she’d come from.
But in fairy tales all magic comes with a price, and this story is no exception. At midnight Cinderella’s transformation expired, and she returned to her dirty clothes and former life. As she ran from the castle, she left behind a glass slipper.
The prince set out to look for the owner of the slipper. When he got to Cinderella’s home, her evil stepmother and sisters didn’t even want to let her out of the house.
Cinderella approached the prince anyway and asked to try the slipper on. It fit perfectly, of course.
If she hadn’t stood up for herself, she never would have arrived at her destiny. She spoke up and claimed what was hers. She was her own best advocate, and she became the royal princess.
Sometimes in order to get where you want to be, you have to be willing to defy the people around you who don’t think you can do it. And you have to be willing to tell others what you want and need. At first you will feel unpopular because you aren’t enabling those around you to take all the credit for your hard work. Others may even resent that you’ve changed. But in the end they too will get used to the fact that you are a force that is indispensible to getting the job done!
It starts with believing in yourself and your own dreams. And you may need to reaffirm that belief over and over to get where you want to go.
Are you ready to grow to professional heights higher than you’ve ever been? Do you want to make more money? Feel fulfilled and regarded in your career? It doesn’t take magic to get there.
In order to make the metamorphosis, you have to want it badly enough to put up with naysayers and haters.
You may need to defy those around you who aren’t supportive. You’ll want to dress the part, act- -as-if, and walk your talk before you’re quite “there” so others can clearly envision you in your wished-for role.
If you do these things, I can’t promise you will marry a prince (or a princess if that’s what you really want- most royalty are much too high maintenance) But our profession will have a bright well-funded legacy for healthier outcomes, and that’s worth working toward, don’t you think?
For almost a year, the VCHCA bargaining team and many of our members have worked hard to be heard by the VC Board of Supervisors, Nursing Management and the Human Resources Department that rule over our nursing practice.
For almost a year, the VCHCA bargaining team and many of our members have worked hard to be heard by the VC Board of Supervisors, Nursing Management and the Human Resources Department that rule over our nursing practice.
You’ve heard of all the different ways to prevent nurse burn-out and stagnation. Forget mid-career, I was disillusioned in my second year of bedside nursing on a Med/Surg unit and sorely needed a change of pace when I finally transferred to Labor and Delivery in 1989.
Isn’t the diversity of nursing and all the choices that come with it, why so many of us become nurses to begin with?
One of the biggest perks I looked forward to when I was in school was the demand for good nurses everywhere and the ability to travel the world over. Turns out I’m a bit of a homebody; consequently I wound up staying in L&D at Ventura County Medical Center for over twenty-five years. There I took on a different journey and battled burn-out by staying in action.
#1: Honor the rumblings of dissatisfaction. There’s a big difference between work and drudgery. The first part of every solution is the realization that there is a problem. Being complacent of the status quo is a great way to ignore the ditches and go flying off the road of happiness. A better option is to take note of the conditions around you that need improvement and move forward with a plan for change.
I’m sure that if I had ignored my discontent during the short-staffing crisis of the ‘90s, I would’ve turned into a miserable nurse who hated her job. Instead, I have better working conditions and the self-esteem earned from my hard work on the California RN’s Safe Staffing Bill that went into law in 1999.
#2: Look for Greener pastures. Moonlighting or working for a registry make for great ways to try other hospitals to see if the management of a different organization is a better fit. I can say I’ve worked at every major hospital within a 15 mile radius of VCHCA and I’ve found that there’s no place like home. Empowering the patients at VCMC and the reopening of Santa Paula Hospital has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Besides, once you’ve worked in a teaching hospital amongst the brightest doctors in the nation, it’s hard to go anywhere that isn’t cutting edge.
#3: Advance your education. In 1991, I started working on my BSN and Public Health Certificate where the wonders of education opened the flood gates of possibility. In every classroom there are professors and students from all walks of life. There’s nothing as enriching as diversity and believe me for every different personality out there, thousands of exciting combinations can be cultivated. There’s no limit to what there is to learn.
#4: Networkto build relationships. I didn’t even have to look for my teaching job at Ventura College. Out of sheer respect for my years of expertise and my reputation, the dean came looking for me! Even though this is usually not the case, with social media the way we get information has changed the world. Today there are no excuses for not knowing what is going on in your local nursing community and around the world.
Did you know that nurses are awesome? One nurse invented a better way to deliver oxygen to infants. Don’t take my word for it go to http://t.co/G5SnW9kMLu and see for yourself. I belong to Twitter and Linkedin. My followers and those I follow are a rich source of understanding outside what is being told on FOX News.
#5: Become Active in nursing associations. Why is it that nurses don’t participate in their professional organizations? If it weren’t for the political actions of these committees, nurses would still be in the Stone Age. If each of us gave an hour a week to write to our congressmen, support nurse lobbyists or write an article for a local newsletter, nurses would be the rich source of leadership that directs healthcare policy. Instead, we have a reform act that had very little to do with nursing’s input.
So whether you decide to change jobs or stay put, a pound of prevention is still the greatest cure for a nursing mid-career crisis; and this comes from your willingness to look at the mysteries of what makes you passionate about your career. Asking questions like: How can I make a difference? What do I bring to the table? These are the never-ending enticements that enrich the nursing profession.
Come Monday, September 7, 2013 at 9 A.M. and join me and the VCHCA’s Professional Performance Committee at Mimi’s Café on Main St. in Ventura, where we can talk about what’s coming up with your career at VCHCA.
Avoid a career crisis. Become the change you want for your future.
Having a baby is the hardest work in the world. Ask any mother, she’ll tell you. That’s why I’m suggesting that women celebrating Labor Day remember that giving birth is hard, giving birth to change is even harder.
Before labor unions started in America most folks worked twelve hour days, six days a week. In many countries workers still do, some goods sold in this country are made by children who are literally chained all day to sewing machines. Thank you to all the workers, who came before me, for coming together with the support of unions to improve our lives.
The cost of raising a child, shoot, even the cost of delivering a baby has many mothers working outside the home. This dilemma has occurred since the days of Adam and Eve when Eve decided to become a quality control worker for the apple industry.
Even then, Adam got a higher salary because he took the credit for taking the first bite.
It was only when World War II forced women to take on the jobs normally maintained by men, that women got a taste for fair pay. I wonder, if men had to carry and give birth to babies, would it be legal to take on another job outside the home? After all, isn’t raising children to be adults who will care for future generations enough?
As the late Mary Ivins once said:
“Although it is true that only twenty percent of American workers are in unions, that twenty percent sets the standards across the board on salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts.”
If you like the modern day conveniences of epidurals and disposable diapers, thank science.