News & Events

Region One Nurse Newsletter February 2011

Download the February 2011 Newsletter here


A message from Gail Bean, RN, Vice Chair, Regional Council One; BU Chair, Western Mass Hospital

Do you ever want to know how the work of our union gets done? Do you read about great events after the fact? Do you want to become involved in your bargaining unit but don’t want to take on too much? Do you want to personally contribute to the workings of your union knowing that you will receive far more in return? Please consider this your personal invitation to attend the next Region One meeting.

Region One members and MNA staff at MNA Convention 2010.

So what’s in it for you in addition to the above?

Well, you will:

  • Learn about the background of many of the issues often too involved to put into print
  • Learn first hand about cutting edge issues happening within our region
  • Develop friendships with nurses from other Bargaining Units (B.U.) Learn about constructive ways other bargaining units handle issues, issues which may sound very familiar.

Region One MNA members rally in support of Wisconsin public sector workers, in Springfield on Monday, February 21, 2011

So what’s in it for Region One?

Region One MNA members rally in support of Wisconsin public sector workers, in Springfield on Monday, February 21, 2011.

We will:

  • Have the opportunity to connect with each and every B.U. on a regular monthly basis
  • Receive input from each B.U. as to what the pressing issues are in your work setting
  • Have an opportunity to share our expertise as nurses and colleagues with each other
  • Be fulfilling our Bylaws requirement to have each B.U. represented at each Region One meeting

You might think that your B.U. Chair is already attending; some may be. But as the saying goes, “many hands make light work” and having another set or sets of ears and a person or persons willing to participate is so uplifting. Bringing information from the Region back to your B.U. can help you feel a greater connectedness with you colleagues.

So what does it require, you ask. Two hours of your time on the second Monday of each month (except for July). Meetings start at 6pm at the Region One office. Food is provided. Consider traveling with a co-worker; it is a great opportunity to process information while traveling to the Region One office. We hope to hear a new voice from each and every B.U. You are all welcome. Please let your B.U. Chair and Heather LaPenn, the Region One office manager (413-584-4607) know you will be attending. We may not have a red carpet but the environment and the company is most welcoming.



A young single mother and textile worker agrees to help unionize her mill despite the difficulties and dangers involved.

A free event for MNA members, labor activists, students, family & friends. Children welcome.

Date: April 13, 2011 Time: 5:30 to 8:00
Place: Region One office, 241 King Street Suit 226 Northampton
As usual, dinner will be served. Please RSVP the Region One office:



On January 5th, many BFMC nurses turned out to be updated on contract negotiations and to brainstorm ideas for an action campaign to move the process toward a fair contract.  Many ideas were shared and the bargaining committee set out a calendar of events.  One of the first actions we decided on was to wear our MNA buttons at work to show unity and support for a fair contract.  We chose a theme for the action campaign and stickers were printed:  “Our Focus is Your Care” says it all for us nurses at the bedside!!!  We also undertook a petition for nurses to sign expressing our support for agreement on a new, fair contract.  This petition was signed by 80% of our nurses and given to management at the last negotiation session held on January 25th.

Because of the many RNs who wore buttons, signed the petition, and attended negotiation sessions, we reached a tentative agreement with BFMC on January 25th.  The bargaining committee unanimously endorsed this tentative agreement for the new contract between MNA and BFMC.  The contract was ratified on February 16th.

The agreement is a one-year contract, which allows the hospital time to find out where finances will be after all the changes to reimbursements have occurred.  There were no takeaways!!!! Positive additions to our contract include:

  • A cap on mandatory overtime to sixteen hours per calendar year.
  • New language to prevent daily mid-shift floating.
  • New technology will be a permanent agenda item at Labor/Management meetings, just like unsafe staffing reports are presently.
  • Task forces to look into an acuity system to ensure safe staffing, patient satisfaction and physical plant changes will be created with equal representation from MNA and the hospital.

As we move further into this new year, the BFMC MNA committee is encouraging all of us to put our patients first and be ready to assist our fellow nurses when they are in the weeds with their assignment.  When we stick together, our patients benefit from safe, quality care, and we prevent burnout in each other. 


The RNs of Baystate VNA Springfield are currently in contract negotiations.


RNs at Berkshire Medical Center, where management refused to sit at the bargaining table with the nurses for their scheduled negotiations.

Berkshire Medical Center RNs, who have been in contract negotiations since July, have scheduled a strike authorization vote for March 9, 2011. On February 8th, the first day of negotiations that included a federal mediator, management refused to sit at the bargaining table. The issues are over two concessions; the creation of an in-house health insurance plan that would force nurses to receive their health care at BMC or pay exorbitant co-pays, and ending the practice of paying RNs who are scheduled for three twelve hour shifts for forty hours (resulting in a 10 percent pay cut).


The Nurses Unit and CDH began negotiations last fall. Different from past negotiations, we have not agreed to ground rules. Either side can introduce new proposals at any time. Encouraged by MNA Executive Director Julie Pinkham, we felt that maintaining an offensive strategy was the way to go. We have frequent issues cropping up every day that could be addressed by contract language. Having open ended proposal filing gives us the opportunity to address these issues during the current negotiation and not having to wait 3 years until we sit down again.

Two of our proposals are of great importance to us. They are; maintain our defined benefit pension plan and institute survivorship language in the contract for when we are acquired by another hospital. Luckily for us the MNA and Steward Health Care have agreed to establish a jointly administered Taft-Hartley Pension Plan, which we have proposed that CDH join.

Proposals from the hospital side include but are not limited to the introduction of flex positions, an Earned Time Off Program, removal of overtime for hours greater than 8 and loss of 2 holidays.

It is early in the process, which has been overshadowed by a Reduction in Force. We remain steadfast in our desire to maintain our contract and our pension plan.


Last Summer the hospital laid off the majority of the Patient care assistants and then replaced them with Unit Assistants who performed less duties and worked fewer hours on the floors. This has resulted in significant increases to the nurses workload and stress levels. Nurses have been filling out unsafe staff forms, and MNA has been discussing these issues with management. Safe Patient Handling language was negotiated, however this doesn’t address the real problem that patients need more hands at the bedside. In response to these conditions, the nurses have had several well attended Safe Staffing Forums held between nurses and MNA staff. As a result, nurses have been wearing stickers, strategizing and planning actions that they hope will ultimately improve safe patient staffing on the floors.


West Springfield School nurses will be meeting to prepare for elections and negotiations that will be occurring in the spring.

Region One RNs at the UMass Memorial rally during MNA Convention 2010.


By Chris Pontus, MS, RN, COHN-S
MNA Associate Director, Health & Safety

Many nurses wonder what can be said about back injury reduction programs that has not been said already. We understand why nurses think and feel this way, but nurses also recognize that it is not what we know or what has not been said already, it is what needs to happen.

This requires a change in the way we think about nursing, as well as the culture of the organizations we work in before a  paradigm shift can occur to make it happen.

Do you remember the term “body mechanics?” Body mechanics was part of the nurses’ training and education very early on in most nursing programs. In fact it was one of the first behavioral objectives taught to nursing students before going on into the clinical setting. This approach ensured that the newly acquired skill was practiced throughout all the nursing clinical rotations the nursing student would be exposed to.

Body mechanics was also one of the first concepts and actions a nursing student thought they were practicing in order to take better care of themselves in addition to delivering excellent patient care. Now the new found truth is that body mechanics does not work.

What? How can that be?

That is the general reaction most nurses have when hearing this news. But the rationale is simple: injuries involving work-related musculoskeletal disorders show us that body mechanics does not work. This has become so evident that it has led to some countries in Europe to restrict nurses, doctors and other emergency and medical personnel from manually lifting patients.

Years ago I attended a safe patient handling convention with (now former) MNA president Beth Piknick . Aside from the fact that we learned much and met many people, we also came back with very specific information to share with MNA members and the MNA  Safe Patient Handling Task Force.

The task force is made up of MNA members who attend monthly meetings to discuss and develop legislation, educational, training and nursing initiatives to get the word out about safe patient handling methods, ergonomics and lifting devices.

One of the specific points we were able to clarify after coming back from the conference was that “lift teams” were not something we wanted to convey as a panacea. In fact, we found the protocol and concept of the back injury resource nurse (BIRN) much more conducive for a long-term effective approach.

We now understand the value of a safe patient handling and movement program. This program works best as a team. Members of the team are nursing staff (CCNAs,LPNs, RNs), nursing services-safety representatives, peer leaders (BIRN), nursing administrator, risk managers, nurse educators, therapy staff members (OTs, PTs), engineering, employee health representatives, union members, and others who are committed to making this work.

A real benefit to attending the conference was that Beth and I actually meet and spoke to certified BIRN nurses. These frontline staff nurses from the Florida Veterans Administration were trained and certified in the basic education model. Their current practice with the peer review model of instruction is a testimony to the success of the program when practiced in a supportive environment.

We also met other interested professionals from various backgrounds who are all contributing to what has historically been a nursing issue when it comes to patient care. Clearly the challenge in the nursing profession has been the fact that patients themselves do not come in one size or predictable loads. The requirements for safe patient handling are often more varied and unpredictable than many manufacturing facilities where the problem can often be engineered out in a more direct and planned approach.

This reality puts the nurse and her profession at a disadvantage in that equipment, time, and nursing personnel are often resources not readily available at most given times while delivering patient care. Therefore, unless there is a program in place in each facility to ensure compliance for objectives of safe patient handling, equipment and personnel can not be properly utilized.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association has submitted to the Legislature a related bill for consideration, entitled An Act Relating to Safe Patient Handling.


By Sally Surgen, RN, Bargaining Unit Chair of Cooley Dickinson Hospital

While doing some online research last summer for a workers’ compensation issue, I came across information about weight limits for manual–lifting tasks. In one resource Capt. James Collins of NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) gave testimony before Congress on May 11, 2010, regarding Safe Patient Handling. This full testimony can be found at Another resource that I found was an article in Aug 2007 AJN titled, “When is it Safe to Manually Lift a Patient,” by Thomas Waters PhD, available at

To distill it down, NIOSH investigated musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in health care workers and found that they experience MSD types of injuries at a far greater rate than other workers. This may be attributed to the fact that nurses lift patients for whom there are many variables: uncooperativeness, slips, falls, muscle spasms, combative or resistive behaviors. NIOSH also develops and evaluates interventions to prevent MSD injuries. One area of focus is to prevent lifting injuries in the health care setting. Of major concern is the obesity epidemic and the age of the Nursing population. Capt. Collins explained that MSDs that result from patient handling are due to the high internal forces created in the spine when a person lifts a heavy object. We as health care workers are at greater risk because of the type of lifting that we do. We may have to reach our upper body far across a bed to move a patient from one surface to another. Repeated stretching and lifting of this type results in scarring that causes more damage. Because of this “NIOSH recommends that no caregiver should manually lift more than 35 lbs of a person’s body weight for a vertical lifting task and that when the weight to be lifted exceeds this limit, assistive devices should be used.”

I brought this information to our Labor Management meeting and after several months of discussion and investigation management has agreed to change the lift requirement in our job description from 50 lbs. to 35 lbs. We are hoping this along with the new lifts purchased by the hospital will prevent MSDs in our nurses as we so gracefully age! Think about using your knowledge to create a positive change in your working conditions and share your successes.


Saturday, March 26, 2011: Western Mass Jobs with Justice Conference, 10:00 am to 5:15 pm at the Kittredge Center, Holyoke Community College.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011, and Thursday, March 31, 2011: MNA Labor Leader Summit at the Doubletree Hotel in Westborough.

Thursday, April 7, 2011, at the Hotel Northampton from 5:00 to 8:00 pm: Continuing Education program, Solving the Puzzle: Differentiating Depression, Dementia and Delirium.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011, at the Region One Office, 5:30 to 8:00 pm, Region One Film Night Presents: Norma Rae. Eat pizza, enjoy film!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011, at the Log Cabin in Easthampton, Continuing Education program Contemporary Nursing Interventions for the Older Adult, 5:00 pm to 8:30 pm.

Sunday, June 5, through Wednesday, June 8, 2011: National Nurses United Staff Nurse Assembly, Washington, D.C. To reserve a spot please contact: Eileen Norton: 781.830.5777 or email

Contact Heather LaPenn or Leo Maley at the Region One office for more details about upcoming events

413-584-4607 < <

MNA members and staff at a rally to support public sector workers, held outside the Student Union building at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst on Wednesday, March 2, 2011.


241 King Street, Suite 226
Northampton, MA 01060

Phone: 413-584-4607
Fax: 413-584-8171

Regional Council One of the MNA is a unit of the MNA. The Regional Council supports the MNA bargaining units, the Massachusetts Nurses Foundation and the MNA PAC in promoting the primary functions of education, political organizing, democratic member involvement and support for collective bargaining. The Regional Council also promotes education for professional activities, regional coalitions of MNA bargaining units and general members interested in advocacy. The Regional Council is accountable to the regional membership and the MNA Board of Directors and acts in accordance with general MNA policies and bylaws.

The Regional Council meets every second Monday of the month in the Region One office. Region One has several committees that we invite members to join: Education, Finance, Health and Safety, History, Legislative, Newsletter, and Scholarship Committees. Let your voice be heard, join us!

Call the Region One office for more information: 413-584-4607.

REGION ONE NURSE is published 3 times a year by Regional Council One. It is a publication made available to MNA Region One members to inform, and meet member needs by providing information on nursing, health care, and labor issues. We invite our members to submit writings to the newsletter, especially through the editorial voice. A strong democratic union requires an informed membership. All submissions are subject to editing and none will be returned. For more information contact the Region One office at 413-584-4607 or email: