Guest Blog: A Voice for Hopkins Nurses

To our Baltimore Community:

We are nurses on Zayed 9 West, the Comprehensive Transplant Unit, of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.  We wanted to share our experiences with you of what is happening at our facility.

We have been working to organize a union of bedside nurses at Johns Hopkins. Patient safety is our number one priority for organizing. We believe in Hopkins’ mission to serve the community and provide excellent care, so we chose to be represented by National Nurses United because NNU has a proven track record when it comes to creating safe conditions for patients and staff. NNU nurses have done this through important legislation including the only existing nurse-patient ratio law in the country in California and powerful contracts that lock in safe staffing procedures and break relief RNs. Many nurses working to organize our union have tried, unsuccessfully, to use existing shared governance structures to enact change that would improve patient safety. The majority of our requests fall on deaf ears because ultimately, without a union, administration doesn’t have to listen. When nurses’ voices are ignored, patients suffer. Patients should be the #1 priority of our hospital, but too often we see that profits are the real priority.

Our patients deserve the best care possible but administration’s focus on financial gains has left our unit understaffed and unsafe. To be clear, our unit manager works hard for both the CTU nurses and our patients, but unit managers can only do so much when upper administration sets the budget. When profits are put before patients, it results in unsafe staffing and ratios. On the CTU we staff at 1:5 during the day and even sometimes 1:7 at night. This is too high for any unit and is especially dangerous for transplant, where we are administering numerous time-sensitive immunosuppression medications that can cause sepsis in the blink of an eye.  Unionizing will allow us to bargain contracts that better advocate for our patients through safe staffing language as well as other RN-led safe staffing mechanisms.

Another patient safety issue on our unit is our dangerously high turnover rate. While we do have great nurses with years of experience, most of us have only been nurses for less than two years. Experienced nurses are the best resource to a new nurse and when there is a shortage of experienced nurses, both nurses’ licenses and patients are at risk. Nurse retention is greater at union hospitals because nurses are given incentives to stay and a real voice to advocate for better conditions for patients and nurses alike.

We are proud to be Hopkins nurses and because of that, we want Hopkins to be the best it can be and live up to its legacy of being a world-renowned medical institution. However, management’s response to this has been to suppress our organizing efforts.  Recently, the National Labor Relations Board found merit to charges that the hospital has unlawfully violated our right to organize. Despite these unethical and unlawful actions, we are continuing to organize. We want Hopkins to be a place where nurses can spend a career, not stay for a couple years to pad their resume. When we unionize, bedside nurses will have a real voice and the real power to advocate for our patients, with the daily experience of caring for patients guiding our decisions. This is why we support the forming of a union by and for bedside nurses and we hope you will support our efforts to do so.  Please reach out to us on our Facebook page, Hopkins Nurses United, to find out how you can support us.  

Please Join Hopkins Nurses on Saturday, Dec. 1, for a town hall on patient care and public accountability.

Thank you for your time,

Katie Heil, RN                                                            

Derek Jannarone, RN