Staff Nurse Assembly 2012: Bringing the power home!

MNA members at the 2012 SNA

Over 60 MNA members joined thousands of RNs from around the world in Chicago at NNU’s Staff Nurse Assembly May 17-20. From the massive rally demanding a tax on Wall Street to the panels and continuing education events, the weekend was packed with thought- provoking ideas and powerful stories.

We asked MNA members to share what inspired them and the lessons they brought back to Michigan, where collective bargaining rights are under attack and nurses must fight every day to advocate for their profession and their patients.

Here are some of their responses. To share your own SNA experiences, please write to us at dawn.kettinger@minurses.org.

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Indiana – Day 3

The rare joint committee meeting regarding “Right to Work” legislation is taking place in a packed gallery. The Democrats have again refused to leave quorum so no official business can be transacted. However, it will be impossible to slow the vote forever and Republicans are already looking to next week for a vote.

Meanwhile, the NFL Players Association released a statement this morning decrying the Indiana Republicans plan to “ram through so-called ‘right to work’ legislation.” (Read the entire release.)

“As Indianapolis proudly prepares to host the Super Bowl it should be a time to shine in the national spotlight and highlight the hardworking families that make Indiana run instead of launching political attacks on their basic rights,” the release stated. “This Super Bowl should be about celebrating the best of what Indianapolis has to offer, not about legislation that hurts the people of Indiana.”

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Indiana – Day 2

Quick recap – on Wednesday, January 4, 2012 “Right to Work” legislation was introduced into the Indiana House. The goal of the Republicans – pass it by February 5 before the Super Bowl comes to town.

In a move that was no doubt based on Governor Mitch Daniels’ realization that the new draconian security measures at the Indiana State Capitol might hinder the voices of the people from being heard and less on the whipping he was taking in the press (insert dubious look here), the path has now been cleared for all those who wish to enter the Capitol to protest the “Right to Work” legislation. And hundreds showed up this morning to take full advantage of the displaced security rules, chanting “our house” and “no right to work.”

However, there were few Dems to be seen in the House. In a movement that started yesterday, the Indiana Democrats have stayed in caucus to discuss the legislation and effectively slow the process of the bill down. Until at least seven Democratics appear, the House does not have the two-thirds needed to conduct business. The Senate has a Republican majority and can move forward.

The Democrats have made it clear that the bill’s process needs to be more thoughtful with hearings held around the state, an idea the Republicans promptly rebuffed. The insistence by the Republicans to push the bill through irritates House Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer. “We don’t need to ram it through in three days,” he told The Indianapolis Star, referring to the joint committee meeting scheduled for tomorrow. “It’s the quick hit. It’s the rushing it through. We’re willing to sit down and try to work out a reasonable agenda with the state. But first they try to deny access to the building, and the public wouldn’t stand for it. Now they’re trying to rush it through.”

It’s been speculated that the impetus behind getting the bill is to remove the protestors and media attention from the issue before the Super Bowl comes to town. But the fact that in 2011 the NFL’s Players Association denounced “Right to Work” is doubtless causing some Republican sleepless nights.

What a pretty picture for the national media – professional football players carrying “No Right to Work” signs and marching with other union workers in front of the Indiana State House . . .

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Watching Indiana

Take a quick quiz. What do you know about Indiana? It’s in the Midwest, with the northern border of Indiana touching the southern border of Michigan. The capitol is Indianapolis. Super Bowl XLVI will be played at the Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis on February 5, 2012 (this is an important date – keep track of it!).

It’s also the site of the first intrusion of the “Right to Work” legislation into the Midwest industrial belt.

On Wednesday, January 4, 2012, Republican Indiana State Representative Jerry Torr introduced “Right to Work” legislation into the House. According to Reuters, “the legislation is expected to pass the Republican-majority Indiana assembly with the support of Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, who said it is ‘all about new job opportunities.'” The bill is expected to be in the Senate and House labor committees on Friday.

However, Democrats and union supporters are expected to put up a fight and in fact, House Democrats refused to come out of their caucus today in a delay tactic. Rumors are flying that the Dems may escape to nearby Illinois again as they did last year when a “Right to Work” bill was introduced to avoid having to vote for it. Eventually that bill died, but Republicans are geared up this time to go to the mat for the legislation.

Competing ads between the Governor and the Indiana AFL-CIO are already on local TV stations. This morning, people were lined up to get a coveted spot in the halls. In an interesting twist, the Indiana State House has changed the visitor guidelines in what looks like an attempt to avoid protests such as the ones that were held in Wisconsin when “Right to Work” was introduced there. Less than 1,500 people will be allowed to visit at any given time and some meetings will be limited to actual rooms. Sign size has been limited. Visitors will only be allowed to enter and be screened at one of the entrances.

Matthew Tully, a columist with The Indianapolis Star, said this: “Since learning of the new policy, I’ve had this vision: On a cold winter morning sometime this month, four Indiana residents get in their respective cars and head for Indianapolis. A home-school advocate from Marion. A union worker from Evansville. A small-businesswoman from Madison. A tea-party activist from Valparaiso. As Hoosiers before them have for generations, all four want to go to the Statehouse to express their views — whether those views are conservative, liberal, moderate or nonpartisan.

But when they arrive at the steps of the state’s most majestic building, the doors are closed. Others who got up earlier or who had fewer miles to travel or who were part of a better organized group already have filled the People’s Building.

And with that, as one critic said last week, the Statehouse will be the People’s Building no longer.”

And finally, as if this scenario wasn’t bad enough, the Republicans have made it clear that this legislation must be passed by February 5, 2012. Why? You can’t have people exercising their First Amendment rights in front of the national sports media and all those Super Bowl fans! What’s a little stripping of people’s union rights when the nation’s biggest football game is on the line?

Indiana workers, we feel for you here in the Mitten State. Like you, we are determined to defend our union rights. But you’re in a terrible situation. Any state government that is restricting its own people from their House and putting a sporting event over the men and women who pay Indiana taxes should be villified in the press and held accountable by the courts.

MNA will continue to follow this developing story in Michigan Nurse Live and on our Facebook page. Need to boost your understanding of “Right to Work” legislation? We have fact sheets, statistics and more at http://www.minurses.org/legislation/resources/rtw.

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Bruises (and more) in the Line of Duty

I am delighted to report today that SB 642 and SB 643 have passed out of the Michigan Senate and are on their way to the House, where I hope they will get a quick review and be on to the Governor for a pen scrawl into law. If you haven’t been following these bills, here’s a quick recap. SB 642 is a bill to amend the Michigan Penal Code so that anyone who assaults or batters, or assaults and batters a health care professional while performing his or her professional duties is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment or a fine or both. This bill, and SB 643, make smacking a health care professional a felony punishable by higher fines and longer jail sentences. You get mad at the EMT rescuing your mother, take a swing and connect, and you could be looking at up to two years in jail and a possible $5,000 fine.

This bill covers EMTs, ambulance operators and attendants, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, physicians and physician’s assistants. It’s long overdue. The amount of physical and verbal abuse these people have to take in the performance of their job is ridiculous!

Understand that we’re not talking a pyschiatric situation where a person isn’t in control of his actions and lashes out. We’re talking about people who are sad or angry or grieving or mad and choose to take out that emotion on the physical body of the person providing the health care. We’re talking about people who chose to get drunk or high and then ended up in the ER, fighting mad and out of control. And while you might give a patient the benefit of the doubt, there’s no excuse for family members. None at all.

Back in May 2009, the Emergency Nurses Association started a national survey that wrapped up in February 2010. According to their results, they discovered that “more than half of emergency department nurses have been physically assaulted at work.” These episodes of being physically assaulted included being spit on, hit, pushed or shoved, and scratched or kicked. “One in four (nurses) have experienced such violence more than 20 times in the past three years,” the report found. “Just as alarming, one in five nurses have experienced verbal abuse more than 200 times during the same period.”

The most telling statistic – 97.1 percent of the physical violence was perpetrated by patients and their relatives.

I’ve heard nurses shrug off injuries as part of the job and I’ve seen nurses who are now retired because they were so damaged by a patient that they can no longer work. Either way, it’s not right. It’s never been right that misplaced anger is leaving bruises on nurses.

Will SB 642 and SB 643 solve everything? No. People will still get crazy out of control, hurt themselves, get hauled into an ED and be a major problem to deal with. But if SB 642 and SB 643 are put into law – and if they’re posted on the walls in the rooms and health care professionals can refer to them – it might stop an outraged family member or patient. Because even an outraged patient or family member will take a second breath if they’re looking at significant jail time.

The key will be communication. When these bills turn into law, nurses and other health care professionals MUST impress on their workplaces that this information needs to be passed out when patients come into the hospital, posted on the walls in treatment rooms, placed by hospital beds, put in elevators, stuck on the cafeteria doors, and if needed, handstitched on pillows in the hospital gift shop. There is no shortage of places where this information should be placed so that everyone entering the hospital knows the rules – you hit a health care professional in this institution and the law is not going to be on your side. It’s going to be on the side of the bleeding and the bruised.

Stay tuned –  SB 642 and SB 643 are well on their way to becoming reality!

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