The Maine State Nurse’s Association Unit One at Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) recently came to an agreement with the hospital administration and signed a one-year contract. Nursing and Farming, can you think of two more under appreciated professions? And I have chosen both to spend large amounts of my life and labor on. For 30 years I worked as a nurse. First as a bedside RN in various hospitals. During that time in my career I was on the team that negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement at EMMC. So Unit One is one of my favorite Unions. Later I got an advanced degree and worked as a Certified Nurse Midwife.
Three years ago I “retired” to farm full-time. My “AHA!” moment was when one of the bureaucrats who ran my hospital clinic looked at me and said, “You are replaceable.” I looked right back at him and said “Okay replace me…I’ve had enough!” The reason I tell this story is because it is illustrative of the core belief system held by most hospital administrators: Nurses are interchangeable cogs. Easily replaceable. It is a big part of what drove the recent labor dispute at EMMC. The administration felt they should have total control over staffing pattern. Nurse to patient ratios. Mandatory over time. Floating nurses from one unit to another regardless of their comfort level in that specialty. All the things that burn nurses out and make them leave the profession. The bosses “know” it doesn’t matter because the assembly line will just spit out a new nurse-cog and the profits will keep pouring in.
What’s this got to do with agriculture and politics? Well not a lot but I felt the need to use my little platform to say the administration at EMMC are a bunch of arrogant, self-important (you fill in whatever word seems to fit) who have no respect for the hard work and dedication of nurses. They make me think of the quote from “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”: the most dangerous and most pitiful thing on Earth: a scared old man with at title.
Nurses who are after all the only reason a hospital exists in the first place. No bureaucrat is going to be at your bedside 24/7 caring for you. They’re not going to change your sheets or help you to the bathroom. Administrators aren’t the ones who are going to hold your hand and tell you your kid’s going to be okay when his temperature is 105 degrees and he’s seizing. Boards of Directors aren’t going to make sure you get your medication on time and that your wound dressings are changed. People go to hospitals so that nurses can take care of them, period. NO NURSES….NO NEED FOR HOSPITALS. People who believe that a hospital exists for any other purpose probably also believe that food comes from the grocery store.
Next year when contract negotiations roll around again let’s take care of our Nurses. Let’s stand up as a community and tell the “bosses” at EMMC “Listen to your nurses.” Let’s not swallow the expensive propaganda put out by the hospital in trying to justify their lame and self-serving positions. Nurses deserve as much support as farmers for the basic good they do for society every day.
Workers everywhere are taking it in the neck. Some realize it and are fighting back. Others vote Republican.