It’s about more than money

Are labor disputes between nurses and hospitals on the rise or are they simply being covered in the news more often?  Nurses strikes are not new, but they are becoming more frequent.

Having worked in the healthcare field for the past 25 years, I truly believe that nurses and hospital administrators have the same goal; to deliver the best possible care to the patients and to keep those patients safe. However, this goal can seem difficult for the nurse to achieve when they are overwhelmed with being assigned too many patients during a given shift. The ever increasing nurse-to-patient ratios are simply not safe — and are very stressful. Too many patients needing care at the same time may cause the nurse to become hurried. She may be thinking about multiple tasks that need performed “right now”, causing her to make mistakes.  If a patient must wait too long for her nurse to come to the room, the patient may become frustrated and get out of bed by themselves. For a post-op patient who is on doctor’s orders “out of bed with assistance,” getting up without help can lead to a fall and bring on an entirely new set of problems. Delivering medications to a patient, especially pain medications, needs the nurse’s full attention without interruption.

Lack Of Equipment

Another cause for concern the nurse may have when striving to give safe and excellent care is lack of equipment necessary to carry out doctor’s orders for the patients.  A shortage of IV pumps, vital sign monitoring equipment, and portable oxygen tanks are just examples of what can cause havoc on a nursing unit. If a nurse must leave her unit and her patients to go to another unit to borrow a piece of equipment, this is not only a waste of time but dangerous for patient care.

Fair Wages?

Of course, salaries are generally on employee’s concern list when labor disputes arise.  With the ever-increasing costs of obtaining a nursing degree, paying for licensure exam and annual RN license fees, a nurse may feel her salary is not keeping up with these costs.  Nurses feel “shortchanged” when they see the hospital spending money on what they feel are “frivolous” items.

An argument for higher wages one may hear from a nurse trying to do her job may include: (1)  this is a hospital not a hotel, (2) patient rooms do not need large flat screen TV’s, (3) they do not need designer linens, and (4)  they do not need “on demand” food delivery from the dining room

Compensation Challenges

There are several challenges a hospital may face when it comes to determining fair compensation for nurses.  Items such as decreasing reimbursement, increasing technology expenses, rising patient acuity, demographic changes (e.g. increased aging population), and increase in marketing costs necessary to compete with other healthcare facilities are all contributing factors.

Looking Forward

While adequate compensation will always be important, going back to my earlier point, for many nurses what may be more important than future wage increases is the need to establish manageable nurse-to-patient ratios, appropriate staffing of nursing aides, adequate equipment in good working order on every unit, and the recruitment of qualified personnel.


Another key point of emphasis for nurses is for hospitals to carefully screen and develop nursing managers — those that oversee their daily activities on the floor. Most nurses will tell you that hospitals should only hire candidates for those positions who have worked as nurses giving direct patient care in the past.  When staff meetings are held so decisions can be made about the nursing unit, the manager in charge of these decisions needs to be able to draw from her experience of giving direct patient care. Also, listen, listen, listen. The nurses on the units are with their patients 12 hours a day. They are the coordinator of the patient’s care from the time the patient enters the hospital until that patient is discharged.  There is no better advocate for the patient than his nurse.

Listening to the nurses will give the hospital direct knowledge of what is needed to give excellent and safe patient care.  If that is achieved, it is a win-win for everyone. To help improve the relationship between nurses and hospital in Venice traders, the Hutchison group offers an employee relations assessment process that is very useful in identifying current problems and solutions for improvement. To find out more about how this assessment process can be of benefit to your organization please contact us today for a free consultation.

This article Nancy J Smith, employee relations specialist at the Hutchison group. Prior to joining the Hutchison group Nancy spent 25 years in various nursing and educator positions at several of the country’s best healthcare facilities.