Striking Nurses: Do Ends Justify the Means?
When nurses go on strike, it can be a thankless undertaking. They may be fighting for an ideal of better patient care, while at the same time walking away from the patients for whom they are caring. It's a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation.
At Philadelphia's Temple University Hospital (TUH), that scenario is playing out as some 1,500 striking nurses and allied care providers represented by Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) are walking the picket line, staging rallies and speaking out about the very essence of advocacy, all the while temporary workers are being flown in from 42 states to fill their shoes at a reported -- and enviable -- weekly salary of over $10,000 per nurse.
According to the nurses involved in the labor action, it isn't about money. Their leadership is flat out stating that good contracts equal good patient care. Sure, good contracts result in money and benefits and more, they say, but that all translates into quality care at the bedside.
How so? At Temple, located in the somewhat rough North sector of Philadelphia, recruitment and retention presents challenges. One way TUH has attracted stellar nurses is by offering tuition to Temple University, not only for the nurses, but for their dependants as well. That has since been removed from the mix as the last bargaining agreement expired. Nurses argue that loss of benefit will mean the departure of quality staff, and what may appear to be an economic issue on the face of it is really an issue of maintaining excellent patient care.
The Temple work stoppage has many components, including a "non-disparagement clause" that, according to the nurses, seeks to limit what nurses can say about TUH publicly -- even if it happens to be true. Nurses fear this will limit their basic right to freedom of speech and, what's worse (in their eyes), their right to fully advocate for their patients. If they want to speak out about staffing ratios (a current contract issue), their mouths would be kept shut by a punitive stapler wrapped up in a gag clause. For more details on the issues, click here.
Is it ever OK for nurses to walk off the job? Do the ends justify the means? It's a hard call; but in the end, it's YOUR call.