As Contract Talks Stall Over Proposal to Eliminate RN Oversight of Blood Drives
DEDHAM, Mass. — Registered nurses at the American Red Cross Blood Services – New England Region (ARC), who are currently negotiating a new contract with management, are taking their case to the public for support in protecting donor’s access to monitoring and care by registered nurses during blood drives. As part of their effort, the nurses will conduct informational leafleting outside ARC headquarters and Dedham Donor Center located at 180 Rustcraft Rd. from 4 – 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 17.
The key issue in dispute is a demand by ARC management to allow the replacement of licensed registered nurses with non-licensed technicians to oversee blood drives, which would mean there may not be qualified RNs on hand to assess donors and to respond to complications that arise.
The ARC employs 45 registered nurses throughout the state. The RNs, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, have been negotiating their new contract since July 12, 2006. The nurses’ contract expired on August 15, 2006. The RNs provide numerous services with in the ARC’s Whole Blood, Platelet Apheresis and Double Reds Cell programs. The Platelet Apheresis program is a specific form of blood donation that involves the collection of a donor’s platelets which in return is usually given to a cancer patient while in treatment. The MNA-represented nurses work out of four different regional offices located in Dedham (which is also the headquarters for the Red Cross), Springfield, Worcester and Danvers.
“We believe this is an issue of great concern for the public because nurses play a vital role in the safety of our blood donors and blood supply,” said for Tina Holman, RN, a nurse in the American Red Cross and a member of the union’s negotiating committee. “The RN has the knowledge and experience of assessing medical needs. Donors have reactions, sometimes resulting in serious injuries. It is not uncommon for donors to faint and hit their heads resulting in concussions and lacerations. They can experience arterial sticks, cardiac problems and anaphylactic allergic reactions. The nurse’s evaluation may result in the need for the donor to seek further medical care, a call to 911 or a follow up with their primary MD.”
Holman points out that the current effort to replace nurses with technicians to oversee blood drives is part of a concerted effort by the agency to break the nurses’ union and completely eliminate the role of the registered nurse from the agency altogether.
“This agency was founded by nurses, and it built its reputation on the work and skill of nurses,” said Holman. “We are concerned that the organization’s purely business mentality has put the bottom line ahead of quality services. Management’s stance in these negotiations is an attempt to silence the voice of nurses at the Red Cross. We want the public to know that what is at stake in these negotiations is the very heart and soul of this revered organization.”
In addition to the Dedham leafleting, the nurses intend to continue with similar job actions at blood drives and donor centers across the Commonwealth.