We moved to Modesto about 20 years ago to raise our families and soon after began our nursing careers at Memorial, working on the floor then with critically ill patients in the intensive care unit. For most of that time Memorial has been a great place to work. For a large regional medical center, we still felt like a community hospital with neighbors caring for neighbors.
Our hospital changed dramatically when we were bought by the large health care chain, Sutter Health. Over the last few years, we have been asked to do more with less. We soon found our ability to provide safe quality care for our very ill and unstable patients compromised with each passing day.
Then came a massive layoff of 150 hospital staff just as we were going into our busy winter flu season in 2012. We went to town hall and staff meetings urging administration to look at the numbers during the winter months when typically we were short even with current staff. We were not listened to.
The nurses then did a comprehensive patient care survey and report that we gave to our director of nursing and a request for a response from her. She never responded.
Winter came, and we were dangerously short-staffed. Nurses were working 18 hours shifts – not because we wanted to – but because there was no one else to care for our patients.
We realized that we had no voice in staffing or patient care decisions. As RNs we have a legal and professional obligation to be our patients’ advocates and to ensure that our patients receive the care they need to regain their health.
That is why there is such tremendous support for the California Nurses Association, which gives us a collective voice in the decisions that affect patient care and the protections to advocate for our patients’ safe care without fear of losing our livelihood.
This is likely one of the most important decisions Memorial RNs will make in our professional lifetimes. We have spoken to RNs from many different CNA hospitals over the last year, and have reached our decision. We will vote YES to join our colleagues across the Central Valley and throughout California who have chosen to organize with CNA and have successfully raised the standard of care in their hospitals and for their communities, and believe we can do the same here in Modesto.
Sharon Waite is an RN who has worked at Modesto Memorial in the intensive care unit for 15 years. Melanie Thompson is an RN who has worked at Modesto Memorial for more than 10 years. She works the night shift in the intensive care unit.