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This is an Op-Ed from a Santa Fe nurse. It is a true and real explanation of what workers go through, workers who are just trying to do the right thing for others.

By Diane Spencer
Originally posted in the Albuquerque Journal

I have worked at St. Vincent Hospital (pre- and post-Christus) for the past 17 years and have gained significant experience in staffing issues.

I have been on the hospital’s Staffing Committee since its inception, and I was the expert witness for the Safe Staffing legislation in 2013 and 2014.

When the 2011 contract was adopted, nurses, nursing assistants and technicians were extremely tentative of Christus’ methodology regarding staffing. The key feature was formulating a Staffing Committee to establish safe staffing levels for every nursing unit.

I and others volunteered to be on the Staffing Committee, despite having reservations regarding management’s commitment to safe staffing standards. But we felt it was important to work together.

The nurses believed the Staffing Committee would be a collaborative forum for establishing safe staffing levels. The nurses found out that staffing levels were pre-determined by Christus accountants, not medical professionals, and that staffing levels would be handed down to us by Christus.

The nurses provided volumes of scholarly information substantiating staffing levels for various nursing units, but this information fell on deaf ears.

Both sides developed and adopted a Nurse Staffing Plan. The nurses were very hopeful. But, over time. our hope was dashed as the agreed upon Nurse Staffing Plan was not adhered to by Christus.

Christus insisted that we “trust them.” Bruce Tassin, CEO, states that, out of all of the hospitals in New Mexico, the nurses of Christus are the only ones that will not trust (their hospital management) for staffing.

Trust is earned, not a given. We tentatively trusted Christus for safe staffing, but Christus deceived us.

I have personally kept records of staffing insufficiencies (based on Christus’ 40th percentile for staffing) for the past three years, and I have a three-inch notebook for each year, 2012, 2013 and 2014, documenting staffing insufficiencies.

Month after month, the union presented these reports to the chief nurse executive and Mr. Tassin. The director of human resources sent a letter to the union stating Christus will not officially provide responses to these reports … which, in essence, says we should stop sending the reports.

As a nurse, I am accountable for my nursing practice. All nursing assistants, techs, unit secretaries and other employees are accountable for their patient care responsibilities.

It seems a common-sense conclusion that the more face time a nurse has with his or her patients, the more opportunity that nurse has to provide better observation and care.

The Christus staffing approach substantially reduces my time with patients. This is not good by any measurement.

Is this how you, the community, want your community hospital to be staffed?

The Santa Fe County Commission unanimously adopted Liz Stefanics’ resolution to provide safe staffing at Christus. City Councilor Patti Bushee is presenting a similar resolution.

Christus states, “The employer respectfully submits that a more efficient, cost-effective, and appropriate method to review Union proposals and otherwise exchange communications at this time is by email and correspondence with your participation through phone communications with the parties’ representatives.” And they continue, “There is no need for in-person sessions to receive and review these proposals.”

Our mayor, Javier Gonzales, has requested that both parties come back to the negotiating table.

We agree … we have never left the table. We are looking at empty seats across from us. Christus refuses to meet with us face to face.

Santa Fe deserves safe staffing.

Diane Spencer is a nurse at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and a union delegate.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-)


    by StewartAcuff on Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 11:08:13 AM PDT

  •  Corporate care, what could possibly go wrong? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    afisher, davidincleveland, chimene

    T&R I hope this symptom gets some traction and calls attention to the disease.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

    by Greyhound on Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 11:11:17 AM PDT

  •  do you have permission (3+ / 0-)

    to run this entire article? seems like a violation of fair use.

    "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war" - John Adams

    by esquimaux on Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 11:29:30 AM PDT

  •  I know exactly where she's coming from (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chimene, davidincleveland

    I have worked in both union and non-union hospitals. I spent several years as a travel nurse, but unfortunately, I spent much of my career working in Right-to-Slave, oh excuse me, Right to Work states. Trust me, I'd much rather work in a unionized hospital where you at least have a chance of getting sufficient, and hopefully safe, staffing levels!

    I remember when Schwarzenegger was governor of California and was trying, with corporate backing of course, to get the patient:nurse ratio increased from 5:1 to 6:1. Some of the nurses on forums I frequented muttered darkly that he really didn't want to do that, because he just might get sick one day, and sure enough, what should happen but Ah-nold was felled by a stomach bug and clapped into the hospital. IIRC, he wasn't so loud about increasing the ratio after that.

    Being "pro-life" means believing that every child born has a right to food, education, and access to health care.

    by Jilly W on Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 02:47:36 PM PDT

  •  I would like to rec and tip this excellent op-ed, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and I will do so as soon as you update with assurances that you have permission from the newspaper to re-print the entire piece.

    Enough fossil fuel remains on Earth to warm it 6 degrees C by 2100 AD if it is all used. A +6 C planet will only sustain half a billion humans. Human population will rise to 9 billion by 2050. Any questions?

    by davidincleveland on Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 02:48:26 PM PDT

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