The largest private sector nursing strike just began in Minnesota. On September 12th approximately 15,000 nurses staged a three-day strike to protest staffing levels and the work environment. The prelude to this decision involved many hours of labor talks with the administration, unfair labor practice charges, and accusations of refusing to address potential solutions to understaffing or involvement by nurses in the scheduling process. According to a Washington Post interview, a nurse in Minnesota said she was sad it had to come to a strike, but that it was the only way to show the administration (who had been claiming it was the nurse’s fault) how strongly they felt and how important the issues were. While the strike is now over, no agreements have been reached. Quotes from both sides reveal how far apart they still are on an agreement.
It is not for me to arbitrate the merits of pay raises or varied staffing levels, but I can’t help but assume that somewhere along the way rather than the hospital and the providers teaming to provide community healthcare, an “us vs. them” mentality developed. I’m sure both sides of the healthcare management issues would agree that excellent health care is the goal, but our systems have morphed from “mission driven” to “profit driven” models over the last century. Tasks that used to be managed by the front-line providers are now assigned to business administrators. While the number of administrators has skyrocketed, the front line is struggling to fill positions.
In my opinion, it may be time to take a big step back and reassess the overall goals of healthcare delivery systems. If providers and administrators can agree on the health outcomes desired, it will be easier to design a healthcare management plan to accomplish it. It could mean more nurses and fewer administrators; it could look entirely different. But the message is clear: the system is currently broken and something has to give. We must abandon the us vs them mentality and look for joint solutions!
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