Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Regarding Unions:

This post is going to be about those fucked up, leftist, evil, worthless extortion machines unions.

I hate them.  In the late 19th and early 20th century they were necessary.  They brought into being good policies that are now enshrined in law.    Now they just exist to make themselves money and scoff at people who actually take on responsibility and work for a living.

I recently read a comment on this blog that concerned me.  I am afraid that the author of the comment saw the word "militant" in the title of this blog and mistook me for some pro union communist bitch. He didn't say that but that is what people think of Nurses isn' it.  So lets clear things up.  We may have to be hard bitches to stop people from getting hurt and dying in hospital but I think most nurses realise that unions are nothing but a really, really bad joke.

This is the quick, quick version of Nurse Anne's take on unions:

Please do not see the word militant in the title of this blog and think that we are pro-union.

Frontline clinical hospital nurses understand better than ANYONE that unions are worthless, evil extortion machines that care nothing for the people that they are supposed to represent.

Most Nurses are in the RCN for the liability insurance they provide. We need this to practice.

It would be very easy for any hospital nurse to get distracted by one of her 15 patients and their relatives long enough to make a fatal error. Long enough for this to happen is two minutes. That is the sole reason the RCN got my money.  If that happened to me they would help me with the legal stuff.  Supposedly.

Unions show no interest in and can do nothing about the short staffing, poor skill mix, shit working conditions, and unsafe patient care. They know they can't do a thing about it. They are only interested in making money for themselves. 

When I, at 26 weeks pregnant, was left as the only RN on a 21 bed ward for 14.5 hours unable to eat, drink, sit down or pee during all that time without risking a manslaughter charge the RCN did not want to hear about it.  The RCN rep told me that I should have "left the patients and gone for a lie down if it was so bad". Those were my days as an NHS Staff Nurse.

The other staff I had working with me that day were untrained care assistants and they could not help me with drugs, orders, assessments, monitoring and information management for all those patients. They were parked at the Nurse's station having a natter. You can see how it looks to the patients and visitors. On that day there were so many patients on IV drugs that it took me 50 minutes out of every hour to just mix and prepare, and administer the damn things.  That includes all the time I had to spend chasing pharmacy to get the fucking things. And on average I was getting them to the patients about 3 hours late.  That is because there were so many other things going on simultaneously to those drugs that on an RN could handle.  And I was the only RN.

The care assistants cannot help me with that, nor can they give information about the patient's care to relatives who were queing up at the nurse's station to get information------wondering why all the "nurses" were sat at the desk ignoring them whilst mum's IV meds were late.

Had the NHS hired all those new grad nurses that they trained; days like that never would have happened to me. I would have had other trained nurses working with me. You all bitch about new nurse training causing standards to slip.  Standards have actually slipped because trained nurses have been replaced on the wards with people who have never attended nursing school.  The one RN on duty gets overwhelmed and things get delayed.  Mistakes get made.  One hundred hardworking, good care assistants working with the RN cannot prevent that. That is why standards are slipping. 

What I am militant about on militant medical nurse is that fact that unions are bastard extortion machines that make it easy for management to starve the frontlines (especially nursing) of resources and funding.  Unions care about unions.  The end.

Please do not believe this bullshit that goes around about NHS nurses having an easy time of it compared to the private sector because they are unionsed public servants.

The RCN got my money every fucking month because I need liability insurance. I know that they won't do shit about working conditions and patient safety.

I am now abroad. My new hospital is non unionised.   The folks that run my new hospital have won awards for treating their nursing staff so well.  These people understand that when RN's have manageable patient loads, are well resourced, respected, and supported, our patients get better care.  It is cash well invested and makes the hospital money that gets put back into even better care for the patients.  We are non profit but not government. It is a good cycle.

All those expensive unions in the UK have never, ever made an attempt to get NHS managers and UK politicians to understand this.  Unions are just extortion machines that are interested in making money for themselves.  The doctors have the same problems with their union in the UK.  Even if these unions gave a shit, they would still be powerless to change anything at this point, unless they were completely restructured.  Maybe if NHS nurses had decent unions who were simply about protecting the worker things would be okay. But they are far from okay.

So I am non unionised now and can buy my own malpractice insurance. I am so happy these days I weep for joy. I now love my work. I am so happy to be back in the private sector that I cannot stop smiling.  Yes I am non unionsed, and if I make a mistake my new employer can fire me at will. So what?  If I fuck up that badly with only 4 patients,and much in the way of 24/7 back up and support  then I deserve to get the sack.   I don't always get a lunch break in a 12 hour shift.  But I get them a lot more now than I did when I was a unionised NHS whipping boy sacrificial lamb slave Nurse

Australia: One RN (an RN is a person who has attended Nursing school) to 4 patients on a general medical ward.  24/7 Pharmacy, clerks, and housekeeping support the RN making it easier for her to get her patients what they need. 

USA: One RN to 4-7 patients on a 30 bed general medical ward.  24/7 Pharmacy, clerks, and housekeeping support the RN making it easier for her to get her patients what they need.

Singapore: One RN to 4-7 patients on a 30 bed general medical ward.  24/7 Pharmacy, clerks, and housekeeping support the RN making it easier for her to get her patients what they need.  This is what singamore nurses tell me anyway.  I've never been there.

England One RN to 12, 15 or 30 patients on a 30-ish bed medical ward.  She might have several untrained carers that assist with basic care only.  Pharmacy, clerks, and housekeeping are 9-5 and dump on the RN.  If the RN doesn't do their bidding, the patient doesn't get what he needs and the Nurse gets the blame.  The RCN is oblivious.

And I think the UK is more heavily unionised. What does that tell you?


NHS Nursing Student said...

Oh yeahhhh baby she's back! Funny enough I was going to write a blog this evening about the Unions (or the one you mentioned here) but held off. I'm glad you have covered them.

I'm so glad you're back Anne, and that you're happy now in the new hospital. When I move out to the US (which is becoming more and more likely with the boyfriend) in a few years, I'll be asking you where I can get some work ;). I bet it's a real weight lifted off your shoulders being home and out of the NHS, back in a safer work environment. When can we be seeing more and more ruthless posts about your time in the NHS? I wanna read the dark stuff.


Sarah said...

I'm glad you're out of that hellhole. Sorry you had to go abroad to manage it. I have much happier memories of the NHS -- but when I studied Midwifery at Cambridge it was probably before you were born [1974-75] and even then, I knew I saw the NHS at its best; Cambridge was not average.

Zarathustra said...

I'm an unashamed liberal lefty, so I don't think you'll be too surprised to hear that I have a different view on nursing unions.

However, there's more I could say on this than would fit into a comment, so I've crafted a response post over here:


Zarathustra said...

Here's a direct link to save people copying and pasting that address.

Nurse Anne said...


Thanks for the link! I agree with a lot of what you say and I will reply on madosphere later.

Nurses may not be as unionised here but we have some very powerfully organised nursing associations that lobby the shit out of congress and get things like the safe staffing act passed. Technically speaking they are not unions.

So when they push for stuff you don't get the american equivalent of daily mail readers making assumptions about "unionised nurses" who "already have it easy" "getting even more perks".

Instead we have non union nursing organisations educating people and government. It just isn't done through threats.
Be careful when saying that MMN is a ron paul libertarian on your blog. I am one,of course, but I doubt your readers would understand the difference between rich oil baron republicans, american libertarians and british libertarians. I think that british libertarians tend to be wealthy. Over here, being a ron paul libertarian is very much a salt of the earth working class affiliation. I doubt your readers would get that.

uknurse said...

Glad to see you back blogging Anne, and glad to see youre settled and happy abroad!

I'm looking to leave hospital nursing now, for the various reasons that you have been blogging about - I've had enough of not being in a position to give good care.

But I am disappointed, I'm very sad - a ratio of 1:4, or even 1:7 sounds AMAZING, I would love that, and would stay a hospital nurse forever!

Am looking forward to your stories of healthcare in the USA!

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Tara Nipe said...

I'm a nurse in Victoria, Australia, where we're currently fighting to keep an all-nurse workforce in the public acute system and defending our hard-won ratios.

I found your blog while searching for information about the effects of nursing shortfalls to post on the campaign's Facebook site (https://www.facebook.com/RespectOurWork#!/RespectOurWork).

"The Stupid Things They Say" was brilliant, and I've read many of your other posts in one sitting; during "Things I Would Love to Tell Patients and Families" I was torn between laughing and crying out of recognition - and that's despite contributing to the AN thread. It's so true that what binds us is greater than the differences between us, regardless of where we nurse.

So I was a little disappointed when I read this post. I certainly appreciate that the RCN is a rather significant failure as a union - I've heard very little about anything useful they've done for clinical nurses.

However, that's certainly not been my experience with our union, the Australian Nursing Federation - the ratios we achieved in 2000 (the first legally mandated ratios in the world) were won wholly because of the union, who have successfully defended them against government attack in 2001, 2004, 2007 and we're currently three months in to the latest damn battle.

NSW fought for and won ratios last year, but none of the other states or territories have them yet, so your summary of Australian conditions isn't quite accurate. Conditions are certainly a magnitude better here than in the UK - wholly and solely because of the activities on the union and its members.

We can see from current Victorian government proposals what would happen in the absence of a strong union - not only do they want to replace some 1,850 nurses with minimally trained staff, they also want to introduce unlimited short shifts (as short as 4 hours) and split shifts, with an unpaid break of an hour or two in the middle of the day.

75% of Victorian nurses are members of the Federation, which is a professional body as well as a union. Without it we'd be in the smae position as the NHS.

Our RCN-equivalent, the ROyal College of Nursing Australia, is politically apathetic, academically-oriented, and reflects the reality of a tiny percentage of the nursing population. The division between academic interests and industrial defence has served us well - the UK nursing workforce needs to do something similar before it's subsumed.

Anonymous said...

Pretty disappointing post.

The RCN is a crap union. They pride themselves on being non-militant and as a result completely fail to stick up for their members, their patients and the NHS, and as a result are as much to blame for nurses leaving the profession and the decline in the health service as anyone else.

On the other hand, in Australia, the ANF is much more active. I work in Melbourne, Victoria and we've just fought and WON a protracted industrial dispute against the State government. We've kept our 1:4 ratios (that we got originally through union action), we've kept unqualified staff off the wards in acute hospitals, we've said NO to short shifts and split shifts, and we've got pay increases of 14-21% and all because of UNION activism and collective action.

So slag off the RCN by all means, but don't slag off unionism, it's what's kept me in nursing.

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Anonymous said...

Ron Paul, the white supremacist? That Ron Paul?

Nurse Anne said...

He isn't a white supremicist. He is an obstetrician who got all of his patients seen to regardless of ability to pay WITHOUT being under the government's thumb. He is also the only person running for US president who A. Understands how the economy works, B. understands the US constitution and C. wants US troops OUT of other countries effective immediately and forever.

Good enough for me.

Militant Medical Nurse

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