Nursing students not deterred by ongoing strike

Liz Kohman

University nursing senior Shay Rogers is learning about more than medical procedures through her nursing internship at Fairview-Southdale this summer.

Rogers said the nursing strikes, which began June 3, haven’t changed the nature of her internship but they have introduced her to some of the workplace politics involved with nursing. She said she remains enthusiastic about her chosen career despite the strikes.

“They are doing it so it will be better for themselves and for the patients and for the people who are going to be RNs in the future,” Rogers said. “I’m glad they have the courage to fight for what they believe in.”

Nurses at the Fairview-University Hospital Riverside Campus and Fairview-Southdale have been striking for 19 days. Talks Monday between Fairview and the Minnesota Nurses Association did not bring them closer to an agreement.

Jan Rabbers, the Minnesota Nurses Association spokeswoman ,said she is “cautiously optimistic” about the further negotiations with Fairview today.

“If the hospital wants the nurses to be back, they’ll be back,” Rabbers said. “It’s all up to the hospitals.”

Fairview spokesman Ryan Davenport said the hospital wants the nurses back but has no idea how long it will take.

Although the strike negotiations do not directly affect nursing students, many, like Rogers, are learning from watching the proceedings.

The strike gave the class of graduating nursing students an opportunity to learn about issues involved with collective bargaining and making the transition from student to employee.

Condensed clinical studies allowed students to spend more time discussing these issues, said Sandra Edwardson, nursing school dean.

While nursing professionals raise issues about working conditions, the strikes aren’t negatively affecting the attitudes of most current students.

“The students are really very optimistic about the future, surprisingly,” Edwardson said. “But I think what we’ve been trying to do is equip them with some skills for dealing with the stress in the workplace and with some of the anger and frustration that they’re likely to encounter among staff nurses.”

Nursing students might be looking to the future with hope, but protesters are worried about the situation now.

One young protester’s sign read: “I want to become a nurse, but what do I have to look forward to?”

Nurses on strike say they hope to look forward to better working conditions, but they fear their wait may be long.

“There’ll be a long strike,” said Kathy Holm, a University graduate and Fairview nurse on strike. Holm added she’s preparing for the worst but hoping for the best: a swift and beneficial negotiation.

“The situation is not attracting people into nursing,” Holm said. She added that overworking and understaffing contributed to hospital mistakes and make it difficult for nurses to take care of their own health. She said nurses feel pressured to put in extra hours although they are exhausted.

Despite the hardships that go along with her job, Holm said she worries about her patients and wants the strike to end soon.

“I miss my job. I love my job,” she said. “There isn’t anything else I want to do.”

 

Liz Kohman welcomes comments at [email protected].