FALMOUTH, Mass. — The 86 registered nurses of the Visiting Nurse Association of Cape Cod – Falmouth officially joined the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United (MNA/NNU) this week following an election by the membership.
“We are very excited to join the MNA,” said Helene Solomon-Smith, an RN at Falmouth VNA and Bourne resident. “This is a win for our patients and our nurses. When nurses have a real, independent voice in the care they provide it benefits everyone.”
With their vote to become part of the MNA, the Falmouth VNA nurses join 942 RNs at Falmouth Hospital, Cape Cod Hospital and VNA Cape Cod who already belong to the nurses association. All four organizations are owned by Cape Cod Healthcare.
The MNA is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in the state, representing more than 23,000 nurses and health care professionals in 86 facilities, including 53 acute care hospitals. Including the addition of the Falmouth VNA nurses, the MNA now represents 1,126 RNs at health care facilities throughout Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
MNA president Donna Kelly-Williams, who works as an obstetrical and neonatal nurse at Cambridge Hospital, congratulated the Falmouth VNA nurses for their courageous effort to stand up for their protected right to advocate for their patients and themselves.
“When nurses are organized, patients are the biggest beneficiaries,” Kelly-Williams said. “Nurses at Falmouth VNA now have a legally protected seat at the table with management to define their nursing practice and address issues impacting patients under their care.”
Falmouth VNA nurses began the process of organizing with the MNA in December 2014. They expressed dissatisfaction with the way Cape Cod Healthcare was treating RNs and the impact that was having on patient care. Issues included multiple patient re-assignments during one shift and excessive RN patient assignments, both of which can negatively affect patient care.
“We decided to organize with the MNA after weighing the best interests of our patients, our professional responsibilities and our vision for the future of health care,” said Kathy Kelleher, an RN at Falmouth VNA and Mashpee resident. “We look forward to making the Falmouth VNA the best possible health care provider and workplace that it can be.”
An election was held in November 2015. Nurses voted to join the MNA at that time, but were held up due to challenged votes. The National Labor Relations Board, which conducted the election, ruled in favor of the nurses joining the MNA on April 4, 2016.
In the wake of the economic downturn, and the changes in the industry being driven by health care reform, the MNA/NNU reports that its organizing division is fielding a significant increase in calls from non-union nurses.
With the election settled, the Falmouth VNA nurses will begin the work of forming their local committee. They will elect members to their bargaining committee, and have already begun soliciting proposals from colleagues about what they would like to negotiate into their first contract.