RNRN Statement on the Devastating Earthquake in Nepal

RNRN staff have been closely monitoring and and have been in touch with our disaster relief allies as events unfold in Nepal after the devastating 7.8 earthquake struck this past Saturday. 

Our thoughts and hopes are with the Nepalese people as they work to recover from this shattering event. Thanks to the RNs who have already been in contact with us wanting to help. While we are hearing encouraging reports of some of the recovery effort, this is a large scale disaster of international proportions and the road to recovery for Nepal will be long and hard.

Through our long term allies and other contacts on the ground in Nepal, including International Medical Corps, Direct Relief, USAID, and the US military, we will be assessing how and where we might be able to best assist both for immediate as well as long term needs, and, as always, need to make sure that we do not add to the burden of the recovery effort..

If you are not already signed up to help as an RNRN volunteer, you may do so on our website at www.rnresponsenetwork.org  We will be providing additional updates as we have more information on how we can best provide assistance to the people of Nepal.

Jackson Park Hospital RNs send years’ worth of ignored staffing complaints to regulatory agencies

“We are here today to advocate for our patients and our community. We are here to tell the public about unsafe conditions at Jackson Park Hospital,” said Diane Hibbler, an RN in the Jackson Park Hospital (JPH) Emergency Room.

Hibbler was speaking to a crowd of registered nurses and media gathered this morning for a press conference in front of the south side Chicago hospital. Their gathering marked the official announcement that years’ worth of forms documenting unsafe staffing and dangerous patient care conditions—long ignored by administration—will be delivered to the Illinois Department of Public Health and other regulatory agencies.

“We have been meeting with Hospital Administrators for months. We have told them over and over that unsafe conditions need to be fixed. The hospital has not corrected these issues,” said Hibbler. “We now have no choice. We need to report these conditions to government agencies and to the public.”

In a letter officially sent to the Illinois Department of Public Health today, the JPH RNs cited 28 documented instances of unsafe staffing, all previously reported to management, serving to prove what the nurses say, “that Jackson Park Hospital’s staffing crisis is intentional.  Management’s repeated assertions that the facility is appropriately staffed belie the fact that every unit and every shift is understaffed routinely.”

Other regulatory agencies contacted will include the Joint Commission and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The reports span hospital units, including Psychiatric, Intensive Care, Medical/Surgical, Mother/Baby and the ER.

“When nurses, patients and the community stand up together, we’re an unstoppable force for change,” Jackson Park RN Theresa Ivery told this morning’s crowd. Local Mental Health Movement spokeswoman N’Dana Carter joined Ivery and Hibbler, speaking about the importance of not only keeping mental health services open, but making sure they are safe and effective.

Nurses say that their outspoken stand, on behalf of patients, seems to be making some initial inroads with management, noting that as of this morning (the day management was aware that they were going public), additional staff had been provided in the ER, and additional security staff were present and making rounds. Still, they are committed to advocating until all safe-staffing concerns are addressed.

“As part of our efforts, we will be actively cooperating with regulatory agencies,” Ivery emphasized, at the close of the event. “Until Jackson Park does the right thing and makes needed changes and as long as there are conditions that need fixing, nurses will be speaking out and working to fix them!”

The Robin Hood Tax Day of Action honoring MLK was a moment of solidarity in values

Across the country —from Palo Alto to El Paso, Maine to Miami—nurses and other activists rallied today in the late winter sun to lobby Congressional lawmakers for a tax on Wall Street’s riskiest transactions.

Minnesota Nurses Came out to support the Robin Hood Tax

With placards, bullhorns and banners that asked “How do we cure economic inequality and heal America?” scores of RNs with National Nurses United took to the streets in 25 cities bedecked, appropriately enough in bright red smocks, and green archery caps—the colors of Robin Hood—joining scores of other supporters of the Inclusive Prosperity Act re-introduced last month by Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota). “Pass the Robin Hood Tax HR 1464,” was the response.

Health GAP and Vocal NY turned out at the New York City vigil

Economists believe the legislation would raise between $300 and $350 billion annually, by adding a nickel sales tax to every $10 traded in Wall Street stock trades, with lesser amounts for speculative trades of currencies, derivatives and other financial transactions.

Atlanta VA and PDA Nurses

Supported by National Nurses United and more than 170 other national organizations representing millions of trade union members, religious groups, environmentalists, politicians, anti-poverty activists, clerics and health advocates the Robin Hood tax could close any number of gaping holes in America’s social safety net. Just a short list includes the funds needed for guaranteeing healthcare for all, eradicating HIV/AIDS, real action on climate change, building affordable housing, creating good jobs with decent wages, relieving students of their student loan debt, or even, by some estimates, ending poverty altogether.

Nurses and Allies in Texas at Beto O’Rourk’s office

Today’s nationwide rallies followed the 47th anniversary since the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., whose calls for a more just America, and a Beloved Community, are consistent with the proposal for a Robin Hood Tax. A budget, King often said, is a moral document; starved by the politics of austerity for far too long, America’s working classes and poor are overdue for replenishment.

Friends of Earth, ATU and Food and Water Watch in Maryland

Nurses held a wide variety of signs that pleaded for passage of the tax, some adorned with photographs of King. In El Paso RNs Luis Velez and Sylvia Searfoss crowded into the office of Congressman Beto O’Rourke, holding a sign emblazoned with King’s image, and quoting him saying: “This is America’s opportunity to bridge the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The question is whether we have the will.”

De Saulnier dons the green cap in California!

In San Diego, a nurse held a sign that read simply: Help Students Find Affordable Housing.” In Waterville, Maine, California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee Co-President Cokie Giles held a sign that read “Health Care for All” and “Good Jobs;” In Walnut Creek, nurses held signs that read: “Water for All” “Help Veterans” and “Help the Homeless..” Massachusetts nurses joined with activists from Progressive Democrats of America to hold a vigil in the Springfield, office of Rep. Richard Neal, and Michigan RNs rallied with their allies in Ypsilanti and met with staff of Rep. Debbie Dingell urging her to support HR 1464.

Students in San Jose support Robin

“Inequality in health, rampant hunger, homelessness and poverty continue to devastate far too many families,” said Registered Nurse Deborah Burger, an NNU co-president. “The climate crisis puts our planet at risk and is rapidly accelerating extreme weather events, droughts, and epidemics that threaten public health. We need the Robin Hood Tax, best embodied in Rep. Ellison’s bill, to raise the revenues we desperately need to protect our health, our families, our communities, and our nation,”

Vegas vigil

While most Americans pay as much as a 7 percent tax on everything from shoes, to appliances to automobiles, Wall Street currently pays no tax on stock trades, derivatives and other speculative instruments. With its relatively small surcharge, the Inclusive Property Act would exempt households with adjusted gross incomes under $75,000; nor would the fee apply to ordinary consumer activity, such as credit card or ATM transactions, checking accounts, personal loans or tax free municipal bonds.

PDA joined Robin in Massachusetts

Nurses Lead “Reclaim Chicago”

Nurse Talk Radio

With a runoff vote just days away, one Chicago politician figures almost as prominently in the city’s mayoral campaign as do the two candidates themselves, incumbent Rahm Emmanuel and his challenger, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

– RN and Midwest Director for National Nurses United, Jan Rodolfo






RN’s Lead The Way To “Reclaim Chicago”. Nurses Burnout Rate Is High. Is there a solution?

Why are nurses leading the charge to “Reclaim Chicago”? And statistics show that over 40% of hospital staff nurses experience nurse burnout. Is there a solution? All this and more on Nurse Talk this week.

Hear more segments like this on different topics


By Pattie Lockard
Executive Producer
Nurse Talk Radio

Conversations with Kay, Part 2


Recently, we started a regular item featuring the life and nursing career stories of Kay McVay, a longtime intensive care unit RN at Kaiser Permanente and president emeritus of the California Nurses Association. In our last installment, she was explaining how the association, before leadership was taken over by staff nurses in 1993, looked down upon and ignored the concerns of RNs who worked at the bedside. She had just called CNA about a work problem and been given the brush off.

So what did you do then?

It wasn’t just me. Some Kaiser nurses were already working on this problem. I got this call and they asked me if I was happy with the new contract, and I said no. They said, “Well, we’re going to meet on Thursday down at the Lung Association in Oakland. Can you be there?” Sure, I said. So I started going, and in 1983, that turned into our group, RNs for Quality Care. And Martha Kuhl, who worked at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, had a group called SNAP, the Staff Nurse Action Project. We’d all been trying to figure out how we could change CNA to be more involved with the nurses. I think about 95 percent of CNA’s funds came from staff nurses, but they spent maybe 10 percent on us. We were the “Four K’s”: There was Kit Costello, Martha Kuhl, Marilynne Kenefick, and myself, Kay McVay.

We started going to their board meetings, and they were blown away that we would be at their meetings, because they’d never had anybody come before. There’s wasn’t a staff nurse on that board, believe me. So they decided, “Well, we’ll take care of that,” and they started holding their meetings down in Southern California. Well, it was very interesting. There were several of us who managed to get on a plane and go down to San Diego or to L.A. or wherever it was, and we’d be there. It was out of our own pocket.

Wow, that’s determination. How did they respond to that?

When we still showed up, they started having these special meetings that they would have before the board meeting so that all the decisions and discussions had already taken place before they’d come into the board meeting.

So trying to participate in their meetings didn’t seem to work.

We were trying our very best to work within the system, and we did what we could do. So then we thought, we need to get at least one staff nurse on their board. Maybe if we got one, they’d listen to whoever it was, and we could get a little more done.

Did you manage to elect someone?

It took a couple of tries, but we finally got one person, Marilynne Kenefick, on the board. And they would not call on her to let her speak and her vote just did not count.

So what did you all do next?

Well, in the 1990s, CNA did this brilliant thing. They hired this woman down in Southern California by the name of RoseAnn DeMoro and brought her up to be the staff person in charge of the Economic and General Welfare division. The first time I met her, Children’s was out on strike and I went to the picket line to give them support, and we ended up having a conversation, and I came home, and I told my husband Richard, “My God, you know, this is the first time I’ve ever talked to anybody that actually understands what unions are about.”

And what are unions about?

Well, to understand what the problems are, what needs to be done to recognize the working person, to support the working person to be able to express themselves and to protect themselves. To understand the relationship between employers and employees, to help people understand what it means to be working class, that it’s okay, and that working class people together have the power and right to improve their lives.

Check back next issue to learn how the bedside nurses fought back and won leadership of their union.

RNs Rally in Support of Hospital Workplace Violence Regulations

“Hospitals say they are doing enough to protect nurses from violence, but they don’t have a plan,” said California Nurses Association Co-president Melinda Markowitz, RN.



Markowitz kicked off a press conference Wednesday in front of the Harris State Building, where over 50 RNs gathered for the final public hearing on new California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) hospital workplace violence regulations. The nurses were there to show continued support for the regulations, as they move toward finalization in 2016, and to advocate—along the way—for the highest level of protections.


“Hospitals chronically understaff the facilities, which leaves nurses vulnerable to violence. That’s unacceptable, and that’s going to change,” Markowitz emphasized.


The upcoming regulations are the result of a CNA-sponsored bill, SB 1299—the Healthcare Workplace Violence Prevention Act—which was signed in 2014 by California Governor Jerry Brown. The bill mandates that hospitals have a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan; Cal/OSHA’s regulations will implement the law.


After the rally, RNs filed into the Harris State Building, in a show of support during the public hearing itself. Several CNA nurses opened the meeting with personal testimony.



“Not once in the years that I’ve worked at California Pacific Medical Center have we been offered any adequate training on recognizing potential violent situations—or on demonstrating and practicing techniques to diffuse, deescalate or manage these all–too-common occurrences,” said Amy Erb, RN. “The culture in our workplace is one of complacency and indifference by management and administration. So we are here to show support for the strongest regulations that would hold hospitals and other healthcare facilities accountable for implementing a violence prevention plan.”


Mike Hill, RN, of Sutter Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, also spoke at the hearing. Sharing a personal account of violence in his facility, he explained that after a physical altercation between two families in the neonatal intensive care unit, a lack of staffing and adequate protocols caused a dangerous delay in addressing the violence.


“Despite security being called, the nurses and doctors had to break up the altercation. Police also had to be called because there were not enough security staff available,” said Hill. “This has become the norm, as nurses feel they are on their own in fighting this violence. These regulations emphasize prevention, which is the key.”


RNs cite the prevention aspect of California’s current legislation as a model for the nation.



“These draft regulations set a model for the rest of the country by emphasizing prevention. Some states emphasize criminalizing perpetrators, who are often mentally unstable patients, but we don’t believe locking up more mentally ill people is the answer,” says Markowitz. “It is the responsibility of hospitals to stop violence from happening in the first place.”


Nurses also laud the comprehensive nature of the proposed regulations, which cover healthcare workers working in any location where healthcare is being provided, including retail settings and out in the community-at-large (in the case of public health nurses).


With final input gathered, draft regulations will then move on toward finalization in 2016.


See Complete Picture Set Here

Sutter’s Fine – What Else Are They Hiding at Alta Bates?

More than a dozen nurses from Sutter corporation’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center gathered outside the facility’s Oakland hospital Wednesday afternoon to alert the public to ongoing safety problems at the hospital – even after it was slapped with a maximum fine by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).

Cal/OSHA hit Sutter with a $71,275 fine, following a stipulated settlement, for willful safety violations for placing two dozen suspected tuberculosis patients in airborne isolation rooms that were inoperable, potentially exposing scores of staff, other patients, and visitors to TB or other serious infectious diseases.

Speaking out on the violation, Summit ICU RN Mike Hill refuted the hospitals statements to press that the Sutter management “immediately took steps to correct these violations,” and that no patients or staff were put at risk.”

Sutter’s actions, said Hill, “could have potentially exposed” the nearly two dozen patients housed in the inoperable ICU isolation rooms surveyed by Cal/OSHA in late 2012 “and others to TB or other serious infectious diseases.”

Further, hospital officials “had falsely told staff for some time prior to the investigation that the rooms were functioning properly despite engineering documentation indicating otherwise.”

When the California Nurses Association alerted the media to the fine March 24, the hospital “sent out a memo to employees, physicians, and volunteers,” Hill noted, “that they had immediately taken steps back in November of 2012 to correct the violations following the Cal/OSHA investigation.”

But, said Hill, “the Medical Center knew long before this investigation that these rooms were not functioning and willfully chose to ignore those safety violations, exposing patients, staff and visitors. Since the citation violation (was first issued) in 2012, over two years ago, the Medical Center has taken no actions to repair these rooms to full operation and only recently made attempts to provide some additional although inadequate equipment to protect staff.”

In addition to the fine – the maximum the state can levy for a “serious, willful” violation, Sutter is required to rebuilt to code the isolation room in the Summit ICU, which it has not done yet. It is also required to “provide a sufficient number of Powered Air Purifying Respirators in every unit to meet the needs of all staff so as to protect them from high hazard procedures performed on suspected or confirmed patients requiring airborne isolation.”

CNA associate executive director Bonnie Castillo, RN, praised the Sutter RNs for their consistent efforts at whistleblowing safety violations in order to protect public, patient, and staff safety.

Hill also reminded nurses and the press about the history of Alta Bates Summit’s safety violations. That includes a 2012 fine of $84,450 for willful misconduct in dangerously exposing staff to a serious illness that resulted in permanent disabilities for a respiratory tech and an Oakland police officer, a “2013 sewage failure that resulted in human waste dripping from the ceiling onto staff and the sewer fly infestation throughout ICU coming from the longtime non-functioning toilets.”

“This continuous attitude of catch me if you can by Sutter,” said Hill, “raises concerns about what other violations have yet to be uncovered at this and other Sutter facilities in the future.”

“Hopefully this fine and other required actions,” Hill concluded, “will put Sutter on notice that workplace safety protections need to be a top priority. These protections are in place to not only protect the staff but the patients and visitors from the community that Sutter says they are here to serve.”

NNU and Reclaim Chicago’s Mayoral Endorsement – Signal of New Political Movement

With a runoff vote only two weeks away, one Chicago politician figures almost as prominently in the city’s mayoral campaign as do the two candidates themselves, incumbent Rahm Emmanuel and his challenger, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

That would be the city’s first African American Mayor, the late Harold Washington.

In accepting the endorsement today of Reclaim Chicago, Garcia compared the new independent political organization to the grassroots workers’ movement that powered Washington’s Rainbow Coalition to a surprising 1983 victory over the city’s infamous Democratic machine, led for decades by Mayor Richard “Boss” Daley.

“I am proud to receive the endorsement of Reclaim Chicago, and I am proud and humbled to be cast as a bearer of the legacy of Harold Washington. When we came together and elected Harold as Mayor against all odds, the feeling of empowerment and potential for change for a new Chicago was electric. He was one of us: Our Mayor!  My years’ working beside Mayor Washington inspire me and informs the kind of Mayor I intend to be.”

“Like Mayor Washington, I believe that the people of Chicago and our communities are the heart and soul of the city. Mayor Emanuel believes that his crony corporations are all that matters. He views the working families of this city with indifference, unworthy of either regard or a fair share of civic resources.”

Garcia also proclaimed support for a financial transaction tax on Wall Street speculation, and called for a health policy “must support access in every neighborhood to quality,” health care for every resident.

Reclaim Chicago is supported by National Nurses United, the nation’s largest organization of organized nurses, and the People’s Lobby, a membership organization dedicated to fighting for a fair economy and a just society.

Prior to the February primary, Reclaim Chicago’s members logged nearly 5,000 hours and 60,000 voter contacts evenly divided on the city’ South side—which locals often say “built the city”—and the North side, which owns it. The coalition’s blue-collar quality is a throwback to Washington’s first campaign in which he spent as much time turning out the vote in Chicago’s infamous housing projects, as he did among the “lakefront liberals” who are among the city’s power elite.

In casting himself as a Democrat in the Washington mold, Garcia is distancing himself from the moderate, neo-liberal policies embodied by Emmanuel, who has closed schools and mental health clinics even while subsidizing developers’ high-end projects.

As one signal of that, following his statement, one reporter asked Garcia about his criticism of a big development project that would bring some jobs to the city. “We speak not against development, we speak against corporate welfare, we speak against cronyism. We don’t think tax increment financing was intended to benefit the rich and wealthy and well connected. And don’t forget that the prime beneficiary of this project made a half a million contribution to Rahm Emanuel just days ago.”

At a press conference held in front of a lavish Marriott hotel that is the beneficiary of Emmanuel’s largesse, Martese Chism, a registered nurse at John H. Stroger Hospital and one of 6,000 Chicago-area RNs represented by National Nurses United, outlined a different perspective that challenges the rote traditional way endorsements are made.

“Rahm Emanuel and the current city council are failing to put the needs of the people first. As a nurse, I see up close the suffering that results from Rahm’s choices. The choice to close 6 mental health clinics put our patients at risk and resulted in suicide and incarceration of the mentally ill that just needed treatment,” Chism noted.

“I come from a family of civil rights activists,” said Chism. “Fifty years ago, my great grandmother marched across the Selma Edmund Pettis Bridge. Ten months later my great grandmother was murdered after coming back from a voting rights hearing in Jackson, Ms. My vote is very important. When I vote, I vote for candidates who reflect nurses’ values and put the needs of the community first.”   

Ken Franklin, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 echoed those remarks: “We are outraged with school closings. We are outraged with union busting attempts by the rich and powerful. The city is being sold out to the wealth at the expense of the middle and working class. Give the city back to the people.”

One recent poll showed Garcia in a statistical dead heat with Emmanuel, whose campaign war chest is exponentially larger. Said Reclaim Chicago spokeswoman Kristi Sandford: “We really see Chicago as a battleground for the soul of the Democratic Party.”

Standing On Our Own Shoulders

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We believe that it is going to be the nurses, the RNs, who will lead the change in healthcare.” – Kay McVay, RN, President Emeritus, California Nurses Association


Year 15 of the new millennium opened with a most momentous achievement for registered nurses and patients – a precedent-setting agreement in the largest RN contract in the nation, for 18,000 Kaiser Permanente RNs and NPs that will likely raise the bar for nurses from coast to coast.

The new pact could not have been realized without the unified determination of Kaiser nurses, with the broad support of other RNs and our unparalleled organization, to defend the role of nurses and their professional expertise as patient advocates.

Their unity and devotion to assuring the highest level of quality care for patients as well as protections for the nurses who deliver that care produced a historic agreement that will result in hundreds of additional RNs providing care for patients, not just in the clinics and home, but in the hospitals as well with a significant impact on the quality of care. 

It means an agreement that features landmark new security for nurses on the job, with supplemental insurance, for RNs exposed to workplace violence, deadly infectious diseases such as Ebola, and needle-stick injuries. And it includes a significant, well-earned, pay increase, stricter limits on travelers, and maintenance of the critical pension plan for nurses to look forward to be able to retire with dignity and in health.

Yet, the new pact cannot be understood just in the months of rallies, marches, and struggles by Kaiser RNs. It is also a reminder of the traditions and efforts of Kaiser RNs like Kay McVay and CNA over many years, and a historical memory lodged in the offices of Kaiser and other hospital executives as well as our nurses.

“If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday,” wrote Pearl Buck, or, in the words of Oscar Wilde, “Memory is the diary we all carry about with us.”

Kaiser RNs have long been in the forefront of standing up for their patients and themselves, setting a benchmark that others have followed.

To understand the victory of Kaiser nurses today, a good place to start is the 14-month fight with a more entrenched Kaiser management of the 1990s that sought to push through multiple contract reduction demands and refused to respond to RN concerns about patient care standards.

The Kaiser RNs well understood that their response would rebound through other hospitals. As Kaiser RN Zenei Cortez, now a CNA-co-president, noted later, “We needed to fight not only for all the Kaiser nurses, but for all the RNs in the United States.”

And fight they did, with six short-term, unified, strikes, with a vision that the nurses and their organization would not allow the role of the registered nurse to be compromised.

Throughout the battle, nurses had to withstand a unified healthcare industry, their union partners who signed the infamous labor-management partnership on the day of the first strike, and an often-hostile press.

But we had a significant ally, as Kaiser RN, now CNA and NNU co-president Deborah Burger noted afterward. “The strikes galvanized not only the nurses, but the public and the patients. Each time we came back, there was even more support.”

Through that long fight, Kaiser and the hospital industry as a whole learned a valuable lesson. The Kaiser RNs, and the leadership and staff of the organization, would not break.

It ended with a stellar attainment, as the New York Times noted in a national article headlined, “Nurses Get New Role in Patient Protection. Pact with Biggest H.M.O. Allows Care Givers to Guard Standards.”

A key component was the establishment of an unprecedented provision in which Kaiser agreed to the establishment of 18 quality liaisons, selected by the nurses themselves, to meet with management to address and resolve patient care concerns, as well as protection of the RNs’ contract standards achieved over years of effort.

As Robert Kuttner wrote in the Boston Globe at the time, “Unions do best, not just as self-interested workers with their hands out but as a broader social conscience on behalf of vulnerable people. Indeed, if labor fails to play this role, it is just another interest group, and it loses public support.”

That is the legacy that is a foundation of our latest achievement with Kaiser and our continued success in fighting for all nurses, patients, and the public interest. It is a legacy, and model, our organization will never forget.