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Workers voice ills outside VA

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Registered nurse Jacqueline Perry acknowledges honking cars as she leads an informational picket at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center.
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Chanting "Hey hey, ho ho, unsafe staffing's got to go," registered nurses and others at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center staged an informational picket Wednesday to protest what they say is a lack of staffers and unreasonable reassignments.

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Registered nurse Jacqueline Perry leads protesters outside the hospital. Some of the protesters said they are working with too few people; others said they have been reassigned.   Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Registered nurse Jacqueline Perry leads protesters outside the hospital. Some of the protesters said they are working with too few people; others said they have been reassigned.

Linda Carter, a steward for National Nurses Union Local 509, said she was handed a letter Aug. 23 telling her she was no longer an admissions nurse but would be working in the telemetry unit, where three RNs had recently departed.

"You tell me how magically I'm supposed to make up (for three positions)," she said. "The unit manager didn't even know I was coming."

It is like that all over the hospital, where the union says 107 RN positions have been reassigned or relocated. Many of those clinic or outpatient nurses have had floor duties added without adequate retraining, said Ron Schnebelt, an RN in the Spinal Cord Injury Unit and a steward for the union. Some of those nurses have not worked a floor in 20 to 30 years, he said.

It is not just the RNs but all other workers are short-staffed too, said Charles Day, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 217, which represents the rest of the VA union personnel and supported the protest.

"It's all interconnected," he said.

The staff complained to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and asked for a meeting, but when Isakson came to Augusta recently he did not talk to them, Carter said.

In a statement, Augusta VA Director Rebecca Wiley said the nurses are valued.

"Currently we are meeting with the union to address their concerns; and we are also in the process of examining in detail work schedules in an effort to appropriately assess and align nurses in the most effective areas where their services and expertise are required," she said.

Schnebelt said no such dialogue is taking place, however.

"We're really not being told much of anything," Carter said. "There's been minimal dialogue between the administration and the RNs."

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Scribbles
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Scribbles 09/09/10 - 06:46 pm
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Apex24, I along with many

Apex24, I along with many other VA nurses have served in the military. It's not about the money. I took a significant paycut when I became a nurse. Minimum staffing has become the accepted standard. It was not that way when I went to work at the VA. I have worked mandated shifts, worked extra hours, rearranged my schedule, double my workload because there was no one else available. On some shifts, I was the only one familiar with the unit. When I was standing around, I was waiting for supplies, medication, or another member of the health care team to respond after several attempts to meet a patient's needs. I don't mind cleaning sick men with bad hygiene. I do have a problem with freeloaders who know exactly what to say to get 3 hots and a cot and expect a personal servant at VA hospitals when they've spent all their money on non-essentials or their families will take them home just until the "govment check" runs out.

apex24
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apex24 09/09/10 - 07:18 pm
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Scribbles, what do you and

Scribbles, what do you and the others expect when you take a "guvment" subsidized job. It's the same thing at state and federal (i.e. SRS, Fort Gordon or state) offices where they deal with a pot of government money. Once that pot is gone thats it and more money has to be voted on by idiot politicians. Government jobs, whether you like it or not, are going to be done with the least amount of the money as can be because of the financial situation that we are all faced with. Government officials don't care what the Scientist at SRS or the Nurses at the VA think when it comes to how the government money is appropiated.

dstewartsr
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dstewartsr 09/09/10 - 07:55 pm
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Several years ago I worked as

Several years ago I worked as a laboratory tech in several area hospitals; I was working PRN, which means all the crappy shifts and filling in when the senior people didn't want to come in. What the VA nurses are going through is nothing new.

I would sometimes be called on to pull a second shift and would go down to the wards only to find the same nurses on duty as when I came in; I would see one nurse trying to juggle two wards because another nurse --usually the senior-- called in 'sick.' Several times I stood in the hall watching the board while the nurse was in the bathroom for her first break in six-eight hours because a nurse simply quit on the spot rather than pull yet another double.

But come daytime? Oh my! The wards, offices, and halls overflowed with nurses, supervisors, administrators giving orders to the floor nurses. Selfsame folks who would bemoan that they couldn't hire new help because of 'the budget' or keep floor nurses- though they had no idea why.

corgimom
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corgimom 09/09/10 - 08:23 pm
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"corgimon--you have no clue.

"corgimon--you have no clue. This has nothing to do with pay,nurses should be paided for what they do and well."

Um....ok.

corgimom
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corgimom 09/09/10 - 08:28 pm
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"And don't give me that crap

"And don't give me that crap about "your patients" because the nurses I've heard at the VA can't stand dealing with old men who don't have very good personal hygene. What a bunch of cry babies!!!!"

Apex has been watching too many TV shows and movies where nurses are portrayed as Florence Nightengale, selfless, dedicated, and noble.

Nurses- whether male or female- are people. I don't know anyone who gets a thrill out of cleaning up bodily fluids and feces.

It is very obvious that Apex has never had to take care of very sick adults for a living.

It's not fun, and it's not easy. It's very difficult and stressful, and then they get stuck with people who have no respect for them and what they do.

Anyone who goes into the nursing profession has my utmost respect.

MDKitz86
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MDKitz86 09/09/10 - 08:34 pm
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A review of the comments

A review of the comments certainly yields a dichotomy of opinions. It is sad that management and labor could not resolve staffing issues before the problem boiled over into a public spectacle. I am relatively certain that there is more than meets the eye with regard to the shortage of nursing staff dedicated to actual hands on the patient care. Wonder how things reached a point in which there weren't an adeqaute number of nurses to provide care? With regard to salary, I did a quick online search and the average starting salary for a Registered Nurse is in the Mid 40K range and the higher end (accounting most likely for years of experience) at nearly 70K. Sorry fish 2 that's just what nurses make in terms of salary. I doubt that there were nurses reassigned to patient care that had not been involved in patient care in some way for very long. I have a close friend who is an RN. From what I can understand nurses do a lot of different things. Maybe not all are involved in hands on patient care but that probably doesn't mean the role they fill isn't necessary. I'd bet my dollar that the attrition rate of those nurses providing hands on care wasn't matched with the accession of fresh blood!

apex24
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apex24 09/09/10 - 09:42 pm
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Corgi, what about a police

Corgi, what about a police officer who has to walk up to a car with black windows at 2:00am and hope no one sticks a gun in his face. Or show up after a bad accident and have to pick up the side of a victim's head and put it in a bag. They make half the salary a RN and don't walk around carrying signs about how bad their jobs are. Go tell a police officer or a soldier about "very difficult and stressful".

corgimom
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corgimom 09/09/10 - 09:53 pm
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Oh, and you don't think

Oh, and you don't think police officers complain? You think that RCSO deputies haven't staged protests? Because I know differently.

I also understand the difference between a county employee and a Federal employee, and what governing body sets salaries for each one.

corgimom
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corgimom 09/09/10 - 10:06 pm
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Oh, and Apex? When those same

Oh, and Apex? When those same police officers get hurt in the line of duty, whether from an accident, a fight, or getting shot- where do they go, and who takes care of them?

That would be- hospitals and nurses.

apex24
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apex24 09/09/10 - 10:15 pm
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Corgi, why don't you stay

Corgi, why don't you stay with the subject and quit thinking so much. The problem is the nurses at the VA Hospital. This is not about nurses as a whole. If I'm not mistaken the VA nurses are the one's who had their picture in the paper. Oh and Corgi. If the nurses at the VA are complaining so much what kind of job do think they're doing when they get PO. Hummmm.

dvdbiggs
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dvdbiggs 09/10/10 - 04:27 pm
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I really think that the

I really think that the staffing problem can be solved very easily. As I mentioned in a previous comment, fire the director and current management personnel. Then bring in qualified VETERANS to fill these positions. I am sure that the new staff would not hesitate to fill the nursing positions, as they would want fellow veterans to have quality care. Nurses who work 16 hours and then double back to work another shift can't be alert enough to provide quality care. I have worked forced 16 hour shifts at the VA and then had to double back and work another 16 hour shift. I can tell you from personal experience, mistakes will be made. As someone mentioned in a previous comment, the VA is opening the door for more lawsuits. I was not a nurse at the VA.

michelleg
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michelleg 09/10/10 - 12:55 pm
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dear community, Fish, Benny

dear community, Fish, Benny and Apex

With over 30 years in nursing i have worked with some fine MDs, nurses and all manner of healthcare providers. I have worked with some not so near and dear to my expectations but overall more fine indidivuals than not. But let me ask you a few questions, especially those who have had a loved one in the hospital, been a pt in the hospital and left someone in the hospital;

Just who do you think is at the bedside after the MD has made rounds and stood at the bed for 10-15 minutes or PT has come and walked your daddy down the hall, to an xray or such, who do you think is there the other 23 hours of the hospital stay????????????????????? who is there to call the Code Blue, recognize the need for a Code Blue, Rapid Assessment team, reaction to blood, medication, allergy response, chest pain? Who is there to walk and or get your mother to the restroom, who is there to assess her need with eating, meals, ambulation, medication, treatment, emergencies??????????????? Who do you think calls the MD to tell him he is needed Now, ten minutes ago???????? Who is there making rounds at 5am, 10pm, 2am up and down the hall, in and out of rooms? Just who do you think is giving the meds, administering treatments, carrying out the orders the other practitioners took 10-20 minutes to write????????? Who do you think advises others that perhaps more or less is needed, what is ordered is not working, the pt condition has changed, improved or worsened??????????????????????
Just who do you think is at the bedside 24 hours a day--THE NURSES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thats who. To those who have been in the hospital, who did you ask to call your doctor so you could talk to them? Who did you ask to explain to you information so you really understood what was just told to you by the MD? Who reviewed your discharge needs, instructions, follow up needs and appointments as you were leaving the hospital? To whom did you call at 3am when your mother was in the hospital and wanted to know how she was?, did she sleep well or at all, is the new medication or treatment helping or is she about the same? How many times did you see the MD? How many times did you see the nurses?

I am not faulting MD, PT, RT, needed and valued other practitioners, they see many pts and they are invaluable to our job but answer those questions and tell me what the answer is ! If you didnt need Nursing care you would see the MD, get the medicine or treatment and go HOME! But guess what you needed care, nursing care. You all are watching too much TV. Scrubs, Hawthorne and such are 30-60 minutes clips for entertainment, not real, get off the couch and volenteer at the hospitals, see who is pounding up and down the hall, answering the phone, giving directions, calling the MD and teams when needed, teaching the interns, assisting the MD and others in carrying out care. Lets see this get done without nurses, now there would be a program!
Apex, Benny and Fish, if you have had less than ideal admissions to a hospital or with receiving care, something tells me that you may have been more a part of the problem than of the solution, but we would have still cared for you no matter how disagreeable you were and perhaps in spite of yourself. We do a great deal of turning the other cheek!

michelleg
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michelleg 09/10/10 - 12:55 pm
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dear community, Fish, Benny

dear community, Fish, Benny and Apex

With over 30 years in nursing i have worked with some fine MDs, nurses and all manner of healthcare providers. I have worked with some not so near and dear to my expectations but overall more fine indidivuals than not. But let me ask you a few questions, especially those who have had a loved one in the hospital, been a pt in the hospital and left someone in the hospital;

Just who do you think is at the bedside after the MD has made rounds and stood at the bed for 10-15 minutes or PT has come and walked your daddy down the hall, to an xray or such, who do you think is there the other 23 hours of the hospital stay????????????????????? who is there to call the Code Blue, recognize the need for a Code Blue, Rapid Assessment team, reaction to blood, medication, allergy response, chest pain? Who is there to walk and or get your mother to the restroom, who is there to assess her need with eating, meals, ambulation, medication, treatment, emergencies??????????????? Who do you think calls the MD to tell him he is needed Now, ten minutes ago???????? Who is there making rounds at 5am, 10pm, 2am up and down the hall, in and out of rooms? Just who do you think is giving the meds, administering treatments, carrying out the orders the other practitioners took 10-20 minutes to write????????? Who do you think advises others that perhaps more or less is needed, what is ordered is not working, the pt condition has changed, improved or worsened??????????????????????
Just who do you think is at the bedside 24 hours a day--THE NURSES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thats who. To those who have been in the hospital, who did you ask to call your doctor so you could talk to them? Who did you ask to explain to you information so you really understood what was just told to you by the MD? Who reviewed your discharge needs, instructions, follow up needs and appointments as you were leaving the hospital? To whom did you call at 3am when your mother was in the hospital and wanted to know how she was?, did she sleep well or at all, is the new medication or treatment helping or is she about the same? How many times did you see the MD? How many times did you see the nurses?

I am not faulting MD, PT, RT, needed and valued other practitioners, they see many pts and they are invaluable to our job but answer those questions and tell me what the answer is ! If you didnt need Nursing care you would see the MD, get the medicine or treatment and go HOME! But guess what you needed care, nursing care. You all are watching too much TV. Scrubs, Hawthorne and such are 30-60 minutes clips for entertainment, not real, get off the couch and volenteer at the hospitals, see who is pounding up and down the hall, answering the phone, giving directions, calling the MD and teams when needed, teaching the interns, assisting the MD and others in carrying out care. Lets see this get done without nurses, now there would be a program!
Apex, Benny and Fish, if you have had less than ideal admissions to a hospital or with receiving care, something tells me that you may have been more a part of the problem than of the solution, but we would have still cared for you no matter how disagreeable you were and perhaps in spite of yourself. We do a great deal of turning the other cheek!

fish2
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fish2 09/10/10 - 01:57 pm
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michelleq---If you take the

michelleq---If you take the time and read what I have said you would understand I am for nurses, the issue is not enough nurses providing direct patient care. Over 30% of RN's hold administrative positions not direct patient care. There are 456 RN's and 207 LPN's employed at both the uptown and downtown division. Some of those nurses have not touched a patient in over 25 years! Those days are gone and nurses need better nursing management at their level moving and placeing nurses where needed on a daily basis like most hospitals do at this time.
I have been around over 30 years in nursing also and hope to make it better for future medical staff.

san777
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san777 09/10/10 - 03:04 pm
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The is that the VA is hiring

The is that the VA is hiring more RNS. When these rns orient. to the floor and see that they have to do patient care, the RNS flip out. I've had several RNS at the VA say, "I didn't go to school too wipe asses". My thing is if you think you're too educated to perform pt care, yes, somtime wiping a pt's butt then nursing is not for you regardless of the ititals behind your name. I'll like to know where the RNS at the VA that are forced to work 16hrs shift? I see RNS working 12hr shifts and if they stay over 12hrs, its because they want to. It's the LPNS at the VA that are mandated to work 16hr shift. As you can see, talking about staffing the hosp. with the pencil pushers they all run and pick of a sign in protest against them losing their cushy and sometime made up positions at the VA. Welcome to the real word of nursing!

SpikeM
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SpikeM 09/10/10 - 04:17 pm
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This has become a very heated

This has become a very heated issue, and, again, has taken on the expected management vs. union flavor. I don't doubt there are probably some VA medical center personnel types that are weighing in on this matter to make the nurses look both lazy and greedy. That is to be expected by those in management. On the other hand, there are nurses weighing in to make management look uncaring and insenstive to the needs of the nurses and the veterans they serve. That is also to be expected. There is probably some give and take that can probably take place on both sides, and I hope, for our veterans' sakes, that this tempest is put to rest as quickly as possible.

I am alarmed, however, by things I have heard from very reliable sources. I am told there are some in management who actually support the nurses in this matter, but who have been threatened by the hospital administrator and others with loss of job or other punishment. I am also told that senior personnel types were taking names of all participants in the informational picket. This is sheer intimidation and does nothing to address the problem. If, as the administrator says, she is working with nursing to resolve the issues, such actions would make it that is not the case. Again, concerns with staffing and management of this hospital need to be publicly addressed. Veterans should ask for an official investigation into these concerns. They deserve answers. Something is very wrong at this hospital, and the veterans are the ones who are most likely to suffer.

Scribbles
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Scribbles 09/10/10 - 09:13 pm
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None of the nurses that have

None of the nurses that have filled positions such as case management, wound care, outpatient clinic, nurse education, etc. make the salary or get bonuses like the director and acting nursing director. If I'm not mistaken they are nurses too and they need to return to the floor as well! You can bet they don't wear scrubs! I saw the nursing director who was conveniently reassigned in scrubs and on the unit in the middle of the night. She cares about the nurses and the vets.

Scribbles
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Scribbles 09/10/10 - 09:02 pm
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This is not just a problem at

This is not just a problem at the VA. Nursing journals have been publishing articles addressing the safety risks associated with understaffing and overworked nurses for years. Nurses at the VA: Please keep this issue in front of the public.

dvdbiggs
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dvdbiggs 09/10/10 - 09:48 pm
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Spike M, you have made some

Spike M, you have made some very good points in your last comment. However, I worked at the VA, Upton and Downtown, for almost 20 years and retired. I can tell you that the neither the Director nor management has ever tried to work with the Union or staff. The past Union president of Local 217 finally gave up and joined management. I must admit that he did a good job as the Union President. I guess he felt like the rest of the employees, and got tired of a beat down by management. I will repeat my statement again that MANAGEMET only cares about MANAGEMENT. Look at how the current Director violated VA policy, per the VAOIG, in her hiring practices. She thinks that she can do as she wishes, which is nothing new for management at the VA. I think I remember her working as a nurse at the VA and she should be able to relate to the shortage of Staff in general. I was not in nursing, but I have worked every shift at the VA and I have seen Nursing staff, LPN's, NA's, etc. that work very hard to provide care for the veterans. Yes, I have seen nurses wipe butts too. I will repeat again, the Director and current management staff need to go. Management in general is very devious and it does not surprise me that they were writing down the names of the staff that participated in the informational picket. I had assumed that they would as this is the way that they have reacted in the past. Those on the picket line need to beware, as management will use those names to “get even." The VAMC in Augusta needs NEED BLOOD in management positions or it will never change. I can’t make that statement often enough. If anyone is wondering, yes I did take on management a few times and with management being as devious as they are, you can’t win. You can’t get your congressman or senator to take any action either. They say that it is not in their area of responsibility.

san777
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san777 09/12/10 - 10:01 am
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If the VA RNS cared sooooo

If the VA RNS cared sooooo much about helping the vets, they would have volunteered their free time assisting pts on these short of staff units but they choose to picket. Their actions shown whom they care about and it wasn't the vets!

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