Can nurses go on strike?
Nurses, like all other employees in the United States, have the legal right to join a union and collectively bargain for better pay and benefits. When they feel their employers don’t listen to their concerns over working conditions, nurses may resort to striking refusing to work until they get what they want.
What can happen if nurses go on strike?
As with any group of professionals that goes on strike, you might find your hospital filled with replacement nurses hired by temporary staffing agencies or even just filled with no one at all while an official compromise is sought.
There are laws in place which dictate how many replacement staff can be brought in when a nurse strike is taking place, how much they are paid, who pays them, and what role they can play.
Reasons why nurses can go on strike
Nurses are often underpaid for the work that they do, abused by their patients or family members (or all of the above), overworked, and burned out. They’re also responsible for taking care of your life when you’re at your most vulnerable, with no guarantee that they’ll be able to save you.
When nurses feel like they’ve reached their breaking points, they might start thinking about joining a union or striking until their demands are met.
The history of nursing strikes in the US and Canada
There have been several nurse strikes over the last decade in both Canada and the United States. Most recently, more than 12,000 RNs walked off their jobs at 15 Kaiser Permanente facilities in California on September 21, 2015. The weeklong strike aimed to create better workplace conditions, more staff, and higher pay for nurses.
While talking about the issue of understaffing in hospitals, Bonnie Castillo, executive director of National Nurses United, told Reuters, “We are not leaving until Kaiser Permanente commits to the safe staffing levels needed to assure patient safety.”
How to prevent a nurse’s strike from happening at your hospital or clinic
As powerful as nurses are in their jobs, they aren’t able to demand changes or negotiate terms without some help like that provided by a labor union to back them up during these battles with hospital administration. If you’re looking for ways to prevent a nurse walkout where you work, provide nurses the support they need from upper administration to feel valued and appreciated for their work.
Avoid scheduling doctors or other hospital staff in nurses’ off-hours (nurses don’t get paid extra for working more hours) and make sure that patients are not attacking nurses verbally or physically.
What can you do if there is already a nurse’s strike happening at your hospital or clinic?
Nurse strikes are, thankfully, usually short-lived events, with both sides working to resolve issues quickly before either party is too overworked/understaffed/exhausted to continue.
If you’re caught up in one of these races against time, however with replacement nurses running around trying to act like the professionals they’re not, or patients demanding care that nothing in the hospital can provide there are a few things you can do if nurses have already gone on strike.
1) Get legal advice. This should be your first stop if you feel threatened or fear for your safety during this time. Depending on the laws of your state, there may be different restrictions surrounding replacement workers at hospitals/clinics, so know your rights and how best to protect yourself.
2) Check your health insurance provider’s policy regarding coverage during a nurse strike. As with any major life event, it’s important to understand what steps need to be taken beforehand just in case the unexpected happens.
3) Call friends, family members, and neighbors for assistance when possible, or consider getting a pet sitter to give yourself some free time if possible. Just because nurses are on strike doesn’t mean you can’t still eat three meals a day, right?
4) Watch your attitude. If you’re rude, demanding, or worse with replacement workers who are just doing their jobs (and making significantly less money than the real deal), that won’t help morale, yours or theirs.
How nurse strikes end
Walkouts aren’t permanent solutions to anything they’re usually measures of last resort for people with no other options left. Nurses know this, which is why they’ll often go back to the bargaining table when they’ve lost their leverage and nothing has changed as part of their demands for better working conditions.
Even the most militant nurses will eventually tire when they’re constantly turned away at the hospital doors with no breaks in sight, so if you want to avoid a prolonged work stoppage at your facility, know that offering some kind of compromise is the quickest way to reopen hospitals and get patients treated again.
What happens after a nurse’s strike ends
Nurses won’t just go back to their jobs without some kind of resolution and preferably one that addresses their problems rather than just forces them out of sight until the next contract negotiation cycle. A return to normalcy doesn’t mean everything goes back exactly as it was; however, in many cases, nurses walk off the job not knowing when (or if) they’ll be able to return to work.
In conclusion, one can say that although it’s not completely clear if nurses legally have the right to strike or not, it seems likely because of German labor laws protecting workers from having their working conditions changed against their wishes drastically. One question that many nurses are asking themselves, often in moments of despair over their working conditions, is whether they could strike.
A nurse from Germany has been sentenced to pay a 10,000 Euro fine for going on strike against the hospital she was working at. Is it illegal to go on strike as a nurse? In Germany, nurses have certain protections, but they don’t have complete job protection, meaning that if the conditions of the contract change dramatically and detrimentally, they may be able to legally strike.