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Why Do Nurses Join Unions? Because They Can

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, January 3, 2012

Lost for many observers in last month's end-of-the-year hullabaloo was the annual Gallup Honesty and Ethics Survey which by a wide margin again ranked nursing as the most honest and ethical profession.

The survey found that 81% of Americans believe that nurses have "very high" or "high" honesty and ethical standards. It marks the 11th straight year—and the 12th time in 13 years—that nursing led all professions in the survey. Gallup says the only time nurses haven't top the list since they were included in 1999 was in 2001 after the 9/11 terror attacks, when firefighters were ranked No. 1.

Not surprisingly, National Nurses United is well aware of the survey results and appears poised to capitalize on that hard-earned public regard.

"We hold that trust as a sacred bond with our patients and our communities," Karen Higgins, RN, co-president of National Nurses United, said in a media release. "Patients and their families expect nurses to fight for them at the bedside, even when it conflicts with the profit motive of far too many hospital managers, insurance companies, and others in the healthcare industry who put the bottom line above patient interest."

"For nurses, that obligation also goes beyond the bedside," Higgins continued, citing the NNU campaign for "sweeping changes to heal our communities and nation, with a program for a Main Street Contract for America premised on jobs with dignity, healthcare for all, a safe environment, and support for public education."

The union is also pushing for a Robin Hood tax on financial transactions to be levied against "Wall Street banks and other financial firms who created the current pain and suffering in our communities…."

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2 comments on "Why Do Nurses Join Unions? Because They Can"


Dan (1/6/2012 at 12:18 PM)
I'm old (experienced), and have worked management, IT, etc, in every role one can imagine. I've seen money tossed down the drain in earnest pursuit of quality despite my repeatedly despite my Cassandra predictions of failure. Restructuring "experts" refuse to use the simple, but difficult route of simplifying structures of care by increasing the ratio of nurses to patients, decreasing the number of hours required of nurses to decrease stress, or increasing nursing involvement in financial management decisions. When administrative overhead decreases, and nursing investment increases, my skepticism will finally fade away.

Kevin Reilly (1/3/2012 at 8:23 PM)
John, I enjoyed reading your opinion piece and totally agree with your analysis. I was employed by the California Nurses Association during the explosive growth years of 1996-2002. Today, it is even easier to organize nurses due to the glaring conflicts of corporate medicine and its control of our health facilities. Whether by outright ownership or contractual controls, corporate health care puts nurses at odds with patient needs and nurses know it. It's easy to choose sides when the picture is so clear. Kevin Reilly, MSN, RN Twitter@ReillyRN510 Skype: kevin.reilly64