As a nurse at Billings Clinic and member of our contract negotiating team, I found a number of objectionable points in the Aug. 14 Billings Gazette editorial “Nurses contract dispute raises questions,” but two insinuations need to be addressed directly.
First, a union formed by employees is not a “middleman.” When an employer speaks to a union, that employer is speaking directly to the employees. Nurses form unions to have a voice at work about the decisions that affect them and the patients they care for. The union at Billings Clinic is the nurses at Billings Clinic and the nurses are committed to continued excellence in patient care.
Second, the editorial dwells on the compensation terms in the contract, implying this is all about money.
It is not.
The nurses have a huge burden of responsibility. Some contract changes, if agreed to, will have a negative impact for all Billings Clinic team members, not just nurses. This has happened in the past and most certainly will happen again.
To be clear, our objections are to several unnecessary changes to the contract that will be divisive not only to the nurses, but some changes will also create a divide among all hospital team members. As nurses, that burden of responsibility includes considering how the nurses’ decisions will affect the entire care team. When we provide care to you and your family, we do so as a team.
As nurses, we are obligated to continually push for excellence in patient care. We are front-line caregivers, and we know where the deficits lie and we have ideas for fixing those problems. Unfortunately, our proposal to hospital management to meet and agree to safe staffing levels in an effort to provide the highest level of quality patient care was rejected.
Furthermore, the prolonged negotiations have prevented the existing nurse-management conference committee from meeting in nearly half a year.
This forum is for nurses to raise concerns with hospital administrators. As nurses, it is our duty to advocate for the best care for you and your family.
The Billings Clinic nurses are committed to returning to the table with a goal of reaching an agreement. We need Billings Clinic to be our partner in this endeavor.
Evans is a registered nurse at the Billings Clinic and secretary for the Montana Nurses Association Local #2.