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Nursing Union Goes to Washington

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, June 7, 2011

"We see something wrong and we have credibility with the public," says McEwen. "As the public's advocates, they trust and depend on us to run interference. It's our duty and right to stand up and say this is wrong. We see tremendous disparity between rich and poor."

U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer (authors of two NNU-sponsored bills), AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, and other legislators and community leaders will be speaking at the event. Boxer has introduced a patient safety bill that would establish minimum RN-to-patient ratios at all acute care hospitals across all shifts, as well as patient classification systems to ensure appropriate staffing.

"Numerous studies have been released saying patients suffer from preventable complications when there are not sufficient numbers of RNs at the bedside to meet their needs," says McEwen. "That's what breaks our hearts. We see people being harmed by this system when there aren't sufficient numbers of people there."

This event will likely garner coverage from mainstream media and serve to reinforce the public's impression that nurses are true patient advocates. Year after year, nurses are voted the most trusted professionals in the country in a national Gallup survey, and this type of event further solidifies in the public's mind that nurses have their best interest at heart.

It's a savvy move by NNU. Nurses are uniquely positioned to understand the way healthcare is delivered and experienced in this country and they see all too often the realities of how that care is delivered and the hardships often faced. As such, their voice is crucial in discussions about reform and provision of care.

NNU has found a large soapbox to ensure its voice is heard. And in doing so, it has served to solidify the impression of nurses as patient advocates. The next time contract discussions at a hospital represented by NNU heat up, this campaign will be included in the media coverage. If nurses are calling for patient ratios or more staff from a big business healthcare system, who is more likely to receive the most public support?


Rebecca Hendren is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Danvers, MA. She edits www.StrategiesForNurseManagers.com and manages The Leaders' Lounge blog for nurse managers. Email her at rhendren@hcpro.com.

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