The 902 nurses and healthcare professionals who work on the three campuses of Cambridge Health Alliance, and who are unionized with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, are speaking out against the hospital network’s recent decision to lay off five nurse educators, thereby increasing pressure on remaining staff to deliver safe care with limited resources. They have scheduled a related press conference for Monday, June 5.
When: Monday, June 5 at 4 p.m.
Where: Commerce Place; 350 Main St., Malden
Who: Elected MNA union leaders from CHA Cambridge Hospital, CHA Everett Hospital, and CHA Somerville Hospital; MNA/CHA nurses; and MNA/CHA healthcare professionals
The role of a nurse educator in a hospital setting encompasses creating an instructional environment that is conducive to new nurses’ learning, and it also greatly contributes to whether nurses stay longer-term at their hospitals.
At CHA, nurse educators play an essential role given the number of new graduate nurses and travel nurses that management has opted to rely on recently. In the MNA’s most recent “Survey of the State of Nursing in Massachusetts,” 78% of nurses newer to the profession reported that they do not have enough time to provide their patients with the care and attention each one needs. Without nurse educators readily available to support CHA’s new graduates, already-dangerous working conditions will be unnecessarily exacerbated and will drive even more new graduates away from the bedside.
CHA plans to eliminate two nurse educator positions from Cambridge Hospital and three from CHA Everett. In the new configuration, one nurse educator will cover a “service line” (i.e., med/surg; labor and delivery; OR) across all three campuses. The exact educator positions being lost include:
- Cambridge Hospital: Med/Surg
- Cambridge Hospital: Maternity/Labor & Delivery
- CHA Everett: Psych
- CHA Everett: PACU
- CHA Everett: In-Patient Diabetes
“Cutting our nurse educators is a bad decision, and it will impact the safe care of our patients,” said Suzy Dailey, RN and union co-chair at Cambridge Hospital. “Experienced nurses are not staying at CHA because the hospital chooses not to invest in retention. As a result, CHA continues to over-rely on expensive travel nurses and newer, less-experienced nurses who very much need the support and expertise of nurse educators.”
“With this decision by management, a new nurse on any given floor at any given time will likely need to wait three times longer to get the support of a nurse educator,” added Jennifer Ouimette, RN and union bargaining committee member at Everett Hospital. “These nurses will struggle, and their patients will suffer as a result.”
“This is one of those decisions that has us asking, ‘What could go wrong?’,” said Kerry Blomquist, Everett RN and union bargaining committee member. “The answer is ‘everything’. And we are going to fight back.”
The MNA members working at the three CHA campuses are currently in contract talks, and they plan to bring the issue of layoffs to the table. The members’ goal is to have negotiations wrapped up by June 30 — which is when the current contract expires — and with much-needed improvements to staffing, working conditions, and wages in place.
“Nurses and healthcare professionals from CHA can literally drive across a bridge and find better staffing and working conditions,” said Jen Tynan, RN and union co-chair at Cambridge Hospital. “Many have already done so, and more will join them if management doesn’t put in the time and money to make things better.”
If finances are the root cause behind management’s short-sighted decision to lay off the nurse educators — as well as refusing to address other critical issues at the negotiating table in a timely manner, such as staffing and wages — the MNA members at CHA are bewildered and angry.
“Last year CHA spent $19.9 million on travel nurses,” added Diane Roberto, RN and Somerville Hospital co-chair. “For that money, CHA could hire enough nurses and healthcare professionals to safely staff the hospital the way our patients deserve to have it staffed, and they could all be paid the competitive wages they need and deserve.” The “Survey of the State of Nursing in Massachusetts” showed that 77% of nurses report an increase in the use of travel nurses, with the majority of those reporting (53%) that the quality of care is worse at hospitals that increasingly rely on travel nurses.
Negotiations began on March 22 of this year, with five sessions held so far. The next session is scheduled for June 5 and will be followed by the press conference which is scheduled for 4 p.m.