CANTON, Mass – Nurses at North Shore Medical Center, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United, have reached a tentative agreement with hospital management and Partners HealthCare on a new contract.
NSMC nurses won hard-fought improvements to patient care in a tentative agreement secured on Tuesday during their 10th negotiating session with the hospital. The agreement, which must be ratified by a vote of all NSMC members, also includes enhancements to nurse working conditions and benefits, and a fair wage increase for all RNs.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that benefits both patients and nurses,” said Kelli O’Brien, a registered nurse in the birthplace unit at NSMC and co-chair of the MNA/NNU Local Bargaining Unit. “During seven months of challenging negotiations, nurses successfully advocated for contract proposals that will improve patient care and better the working conditions and wages of every nurse at North Shore Medical Center.”
The two-year contract, if ratified by the full nurse membership, will have a start date of Oct. 1, 2015 and include a retroactive 1 percent raise for all RNs back to the beginning of the contract. It will expire Sept. 30, 2017. Negotiations began in September 2015. A vote of the approximately 600 NSMC nurses has yet to be scheduled.
Highlights of the agreement include:
- Restrictions on how many times a nurse can float during a single shift and floating limits for nurses with 25 years’ or more seniority. Nursing is a specialized health care profession and floating practices in acute care hospitals can be dangerous. Floating is used by hospitals to meet their obligations to ensure that all patient care areas are adequately staffed, largely because core nurse staffing has taken a hit as hospitals look to maintain their bottom lines. Floating compromises patient safety and has been linked to nurse dissatisfaction and decreased morale.
- Limits on patient assignments for nurses in charge, depending on their shift and unit. A “charge nurse” is responsible for all patients and nurses in their area. If she has a patient assignment, she is not able to effectively coordinate care and assist other nurses. This nurse should be coordinating the flow of patients, be on hand to assist less experienced nurses with more complex cases, while also picking up patient assignments when staff become overburdened.
- Effective Oct. 4, 2015: 1% across-the-board salary increase for all nurses, retroactive for nurses employed on the date of ratification; Effective Oct. 2, 2016: New 1% max step. For nurses below the top step, a 0.5% salary increase.
- Among other agreements, the hospital will significantly increase tuition reimbursement for nurses, add sister-in-law and brother-in-law categories to bereavement leave, and make improvements to last-minute nurse cancellation and pay differential language.
“Providing the best possible patient care has always been the top priority of nurses at NSMC,” said Kathy Schevis, RN and c-chair of the MNA/NNU Local Bargaining Unit. “Limiting floating and charge nurse patient assignments is designed to make an immediate positive impact on patient safety throughout the hospital.”
“These agreements represent clear progress,” Schevis said, “but we will continue to advocate for what is best for our patients, including boosting core nurse staffing throughout the hospital. Nurses know, and research clearly supports, that when patients have more time with their nurse, receiving specialized care and education, those patients do better and are less likely to require re-admission to the hospital.”
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United is the largest professional health care organization and the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public. The MNA is a founding member of National Nurses United, the largest national nurses’ union in the United States with more than 170,000 members from coast to coast.