2008 News

Cooley Dickinson VNA & Hospice RNs Call in Mediator

03.27.2008

The Registered Nurses who work for the Cooley Dickinson VNA and Hospice have called for a Federal mediator to join their contract negotiations. The nurses, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, have been in negotiations since August of 2007 and have now called for the mediator to move the talks forward.

“We provide services that range from highly skilled and technical nursing care, to assisting patients with the essential activities of daily living. We love the work we do, the patients and families we serve, and feel a sense of great accomplishment about the quality of care we deliver,” said Sarah Williams, RN who is Chairperson of the bargaining unit at the VNA and Hospice. But, according to Williams there is a serious problem, “Many of us don’t know how much longer we will be able to continue doing this work we love. We are incredibly underpaid compared to nurses who work in the hospital, and Management is seeking to have more control over our schedules, forcing us into additional coverage beyond our regular shifts. We have children, families, and bills and if we can make 30 percent more in the hospital setting, and have defined hours of work, we owe it to our families to give it serious consideration.”

While treating patients in their homes, the visiting nurses see patients of all ages and from all backgrounds. They are responsible not only for treatments and dressing changes but also for constant overview and assessment of the patient. The nurses are also teaching the patients and their families about self care and healthy life styles. The Hospice nurses provide emotional support and end-of-life care, including pain management, to terminally ill patients and their families.

While these nurses are required to have equal training and the same license as RNs who work in a hospital setting such as Cooley Dickinson Hospital, there is one area where they are not equal, pay and benefits. At the present time a VNA nurse with equal experience makes 30 percent less than her hospital counterpart.

The nurses who care for patients in Hampshire, Hampton, and Franklin counties have seen many changes in recent years. “I’ve been with the agency for ten years,” said Williams. “Over those years I have seen the acuity, or seriousness, of the cases greatly increase. With managed care and health care reform we continue to see pressure to move patients out of the hospital sooner. While many of our patients ten years ago would have stayed in the hospital, we are now out there providing hospital-level care and treatments in the home. It seems what hasn’t changed is our pay and benefits. It is our hope that the mediator may help move the process along so we can reach an equitable solution and stay with the agency and our patients.”

FPO