News & Events

RNs At UMass Memorial Medical Center Cast “No Confidence” Vote in Chief Nursing Officer Diane Thompson

07.09.2014

Results to UMMMC CEO Eric Dickson Expressing Nurses Outrage Over a “Punitive Organizational Culture” that is Causing a “Serious Deterioration in the Quality of Patient Care” at the Level One Trauma Center

WORCESTER, MA – Registered nurses represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association at UMass Memorial Medical Center’s University Campus have recently cast an overwhelming vote of “no confidence” in its Chief Nursing Officer, Diane Thompson. By a 60 to 1 margin, nurses have endorsed a statement holding Thompson accountable for a “punitive organizational culture that continues to be characterized by oppressive management practices and a disregard for the nurses’ serious concerns over issues impacting their working conditions and their practice of nursing.”

The vote was taken prior to the 4th of July holiday, and a letter announcing the result and the nurses’ grievance with management was hand-delivered to UMass Memorial Medical Center CEO Eric Dickson this afternoon. To obtain a copy of the letter, email dschildmeier@mnarn.org.

“We wish we didn’t have to take this step, but we feel we have no choice given what is happening to our hospital under the current nursing administration,” said Margaret McLoughlin, a long time RN at the facility and co-chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit with the MNA. “Morale has never been lower at this hospital, nurses feel disrespected on every level, and recent changes impact our ability to provide the care our patients deserve.  We are the heart and soul of this hospital, we provide 90 percent of the clinical care, and we want out new CEO to understand how we feel about the environment his administration has created.”

The letter to Dickson lays out a number of issues of concern to the nurses, stating: “During her relatively short tenure at UMMMC, Thompson has increased nurses’ patient assignments on a number of floors despite the strong objections by the nurses on the floors impacted by the changes, as well as by the MNA, which has filed numerous grievances about the hospitals refusal to comply with contractually agreed-upon processes for adjusting staffing and other issues related to the nurses’ work.  The nurses feel disrespected on every level, and recent changes impact their ability to provide the care their patients deserve.”  The problems with staffing at the hospital follow the nurses vote to strike in 2013 over already deplorable staffing conditions and unsafe patient assignments. 

The letter goes on to highlight Thompson’s implementation of yet another round of staff reductions, including “the elimination of our valuable and much needed IV therapy team, the elimination of sitters on a number of floors, the loss of valuable phlebotomists and other support staff and, most recently, an attempt to unilaterally change our shifts and hours of work without concern for the impact on the continuity of patient care or the disruption these changes will make in the work/personal life of the dedicated nurses who play such a vital role in this hospital’s success.”

McLoughlin points out that the nurses’ dissatisfaction with Thompson and her policies exacerbate nurses’ long standing concerns about UMass Memorial administration’s focus on profits over patient care.  According to the letter to Dickson, “Not so long ago RNs here believed that UMass was a good place to work. Our patients were among the sickest in the country and there was pride in the care provided. We felt we were part of a team and were respected by physicians and administrators alike.  In recent years we believe that has changed as our administration has embraced a profit-focused manufacturing model of hospital operations that we believe disregards nurse’s serious concerns over issues impacting their practice of professional nursing.”

According to McLoughlin, “The majority of the nurses at this hospital have worked here for ten years or more.  We care about this hospital and we have always been committed to working effectively with management to ensure the success of this institution. But Ms. Thompson had no interest in a productive or cooperative relationship.  Something has to change as we nurses, not Ms. Thompson, are the ones held accountable for the safety of our patients.

The letter to Dickson asks that he consider the impact of Thompson’s leadership on the medical center and that he require her “to work together with nursing union leadership in a respectful manner in an effort to find mutually agreeable solutions to the difficult problems we face.”

The problems with patient care, patient safety and nursing morale at UMass Memorial is not isolated to the University campus, as nurses throughout the UMass system have been voicing concerns about dramatic cuts in staffing levels, the loss of valuable services and a system-wide degradation in the quality and safety of patient care at every UMass affiliated facility at a time when UMass Memorial posted profits in excess of $68 million in the last fiscal year.  
 

Full Text of Letter to UMass Memorial CEO Eric Dickson

July 9, 2014

Dr. Eric Dickson, CEO
UMass Memorial Health Care Group
55 Lake Avenue
Worcester, MA  01655

Dear Dr. Dickson:

The Registered Nurses of UMass Memorial Medical Center, University Campus, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, have cast an overwhelming vote of “no confidence” in UMMMC’s CNO, Diane Thompson.  By  over a 60 to 1 margin, the registered nurses have endorsed a statement holding Ms. Thompson accountable for a “punitive organizational culture” that continues to be characterized by oppressive management practices and a disregard for the nurses’ serious concerns over issues impacting their working conditions and their practice of nursing. 

During her relatively short tenure at UMMMC, Thompson has increased nurses’ patient assignments on a number of floors despite the strong objections by the nurses on the floors impacted by the changes, as well as by the MNA, which has filed numerous grievances for the hospital’s refusal to comply with contractually agreed-upon processes for adjusting staffing and other issues related to the nurses’ work.  The nurses feel disrespected on every level, and recent changes impact their ability to provide the care their patients deserve.   Not so long ago, RNs here believed that UMass was a good place to work. Our patients were among the sickest in the country and there was pride in the care provided. We felt we were part of a team and were respected by physicians and administrators alike.  In recent years we believe that has changed as our administration has embraced a profit-focused manufacturing model of hospital operations that has resulted in a series of layoffs of nursing and support staff, often times excessive patient assignments for nurses and a punitive organizational culture that we believe disregards nurses’ serious concerns over issues impacting their practice of professional nursing. 

While we had hoped that the introduction of Diane Thompson as  CNO last year would lead to changes to this oppressive culture, we believe the situation has only worsened under her direction as she has supported and sanctioned yet another round of staff reductions, the elimination of our valuable and much needed IV therapy team, the elimination of sitters on a number of floors, the loss of valuable phlebotomists and other support staff and, most recently, an attempt to unilaterally change our shifts and hours of work without concern for the impact on the continuity of patient care or the disruption these changes will make in the work/personal life of the dedicated nurses who play such a vital role in this hospital’s success. 

This culture is harmful to staff and we believe is now causing a serious deterioration in the quality of patient care at our hospital.

While creating strenuous conditions for nurses, Thompson has also stepped up discipline of nurses, resulting in what the nurses believe has been unwarranted discipline of qualified staff.  Although the nurses attempt to work with nursing management to improve patient care and resolve differences, Thompson insists on applying a punitive approach to problems within the Hospital. Her dismissive attitude and clear disregard for the union and its function is obvious.  This not only destroys morale, it also leaves serious problems unaddressed as the nurses’ concerns fall on deaf ears.

Thompson has refused to work with the nurses to address their legitimate and serious concerns of nurses. As you know, the best way to deal with issues is to have honest and realistic dialogue with the committee who are duly elected to represent the nurses.  However, Thompson has failed to work with the committee, and is instead pushing for unilateral changes and punitive measure to accomplish the goals she seeks to have, over the objections of those providing the care.  

The MNA and the nurses recognize the difficult financial situation of the Hospital and have continually attempted to collaborate with UMMMC administration on finding solutions which allow the maintenance of top-quality patient care.  However, the nurses believe strongly that Thompson’s presence has served to stifle our attempts at working with Hospital management and that her actions continue to compromise both nurses’ working conditions and the quality of care they are able to provide. We ask that you, as CEO, reconsider her employment with your organization, or at the very least instruct her to work together with nursing union leadership in a respectful manner in an effort to find mutually agreeable solutions to the difficult problems we face.

Sincerely,

The UMMMC Bargaining Committee
The UMMMC RNs
Deb Sullivan, MNA Associate Director of Labor

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