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Nursing Unions Are Good For Your Health


It seems that if you need hospitalization, getting yourself admitted into a hospital with a nursing union may be your best bet. At least that is the clear implication of a new study published in the March 2002 issue of the Journal of Nursing Administration (JONA). The study cites a "significantly predicted lower risk-adjusted mortality" rate for acute myocardial infarction (AMI, the medical terminology for heart attack) in hospitals with a RN union, and concludes "there is a positive relationship between patient outcomes and RN unions. "Hospitals in California with RN unions have 5.7% lower mortality rates for AMI after accounting for patient age, gender, type of MI, chronic diseases, and several organizational characteristics," the authors found. The study also controlled for the number of beds, AMI-related discharges, cardiac services, staff hours and wages.

The authors of the study theorized, "…unions may improve the quality of care by negotiating increased staffing levels...that improve patient outcomes. Alternatively, unions may affect the organization of nursing staff or the way nursing care is delivered in a fashion that facilitates RN-MD communication. This is the 'voice' function of unions...Yet another possible mechanism by which unions can improve care is by raising wages, thereby decreasing turnover, which may improve patient care."

"Patient advocacy is our highest priority," said California Nurses Association (CAN) President Kay McVay, RN. "Promoting a more effective voice for nurses in patient care decisions, and improving patient care conditions is the foremost goal of this organization and our members. These findings are a testimony to our success - and a dramatic illustration of the salutary effect of having a CNA member at the patient's bedside." Commented Karen Higgins, RN, President of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, "A patient's greatest advocate is a unionized nurse, because a unionized nurse has the protected right and the power to stand up for their practice and their profession."

Last year a critical survey conducted by the American Nurses Association (ANA) revealed that a majority of America's registered nurses believed that deteriorating working conditions were resulting in a decline in the quality of patient care. The Survey mirrored findings from a 1996 American Journal of Nursing (AJN) report, in which nearly 9 out of 10 nurses polled expressed concern that the safety and quality of patient care was being diminished by "cost-saving" nursing-staff cutbacks.

On Monday, Minnesota joined four other states limiting the use of mandatory overtime for nurses. The law makes it clear that the nurse exercises her/his own judgment as to whether she/he can safely provide care to patients. "This bill places authority to make judgments about our own professional practice in the rightful hands of nurses," said Minnesota Nursing Association Board Member Patty Koenig, RN.
Sources: California Nurses Association, American Nurses Association, Minnesota Nurses Association, SEIU Nurse Alliance, Premier

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