I have been a nurse for eight years. I have held several different nursing jobs during my short career, but for the past five years have been extremely happy on the labor and delivery unit of our local community hospital. The Birthplace at Baystate Franklin Medical Center has come to feel like home, my coworkers a family. We support each other daily through our work with women and infants, and in our personal lives.
At the Birthplace we care for women in one of the most vulnerable and simultaneously empowering times of their lives. We hold their hands in the middle of the night while they breathe through yet another grueling contraction, clean up the various body fluids cast in all directions that is part of bringing life into the world, listen to the pain, tears, joy, laughter, and fear that can accompany birth.
We stand guard over them, quietly watching for warning signs, occasionally rushing back to the operating room to assist in cesarean births if all is not right. We help the youngest humans into this world, breathing for them when they are unable to do so, performing chest compressions, starting IVs when babies are sick, administering medications in specific doses to ensure the best outcome, leaving no detail unnoticed.
When the unthinkable happens, and a family experiences the loss of a child, we hold our patients, we cry with them, we mourn with them, we treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve. We go out of our way to give each patient the kind of care that we would hope to receive. My work is my calling, I absolutely LOVE what I do.
Baystate Health has decided that they no longer wish to pay the nurses of Franklin Medical overtime for those of us working longer than our scheduled shift. That means when I am asked to stay late after working a 12 hour night shift, I would not be compensated at time and one-half, the way other nurses around the state are, as I am only scheduled to work 24 hours per week. Only when nurses reach 40 hours in one week they would be paid overtime. Out of the 209 union nurses only nine nurses work 40 scheduled hours per week.
By accepting this change to our contract we would be opening the doors to allow Baystate to fills holes in the schedules with nurses working long grueling hours, instead of having to hire more nurses to fill the positions so that we are appropriately staffed. Eliminating daily overtime for nurses is not only insulting to our profession, it is downright dangerous.
Baystate also has instigated a policy that allows nurses to accrue sick time, but punishes us for using it when we or our loved ones are sick. I know far too many nurses who are coming to work sick for fear of losing their jobs.
The unfortunate thing about this very public contract negotiation is that the Baystate Corporation is the only one with enough money and resources to make their voice heard. Most nurses can't afford to spend $7000 to place an add on the back page of the recorder to make our side known. We rely on the kindness and compassion of others to help us tell our story and spread the word.
The negotiations have also raised tension in the hospital, with contention between union and non-union employees. Most people who have not attended the negotiation sessions do not know the whole story. We have been accused of being "greedy" and "not caring" about our patients, both of which could not be farther from the truth. We are not giving up our overtime because we do not want to work overtime. We want to be safe for our patients and go home when our shifts are over. This should not be too much to ask.
So the time has come. Baystate Franklin Medical Center's nurses are going on strike for 24 hours starting this Friday at 7am. We need to let the hospital and their union-busting lawyer know that we will NOT tolerate their proposals. We want dignity and respect just like the patients we are trying to serve.