My name is Sierra Little. I am a Registered Nurse at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and I have worked the entirety of my nursing career (a short three and a half years) on 7 North’s Medical/Surgical Pulmonology unit. Our 35-bed unit is the truest testament to the positive impact management can make on its employees. We are proudly home to some of the finest leaders across the entire organization. They empower each of us to speak our minds freely and openly, take accountability, hold ourselves to the highest level of excellence in bedside care and to treat one another with the utmost respect. Our management on 7 North exemplifies Providence’s core values.
Being a new nurse gives me a unique perspective on this year’s bargaining that senior staff might not share due to their many years of disappointment with upper management’s influence at the bargaining table. That is the perspective of profound hope. I BELIEVE IN PROVIDENCE TO MY CORE. Not because Providence is controlled by wealthy administrators whose moral compasses I largely question, but rather because the Heart of Providence belongs to those who provide the care to our patients.
That’s right, Providence Sacred Heart belongs to us: the 4,000+ employees and 400+ volunteers that dedicate our precious time away from family and loved ones to give of ourselves endlessly during a vulnerable individual’s most desperate time of need. WE are Providence and WE will stand together through this bargaining disaster, no matter the outcome.
Over the course of my short career I have watched seasoned nurses who I deeply admire and aspire to grow under, dedicate themselves to this facility and this organization, only to be left feeling taken advantage of, robbed of dignity and downright disrespected. The promise of compassion, dignity, justice, excellence and integrity overflows in their bedside care, yet those core values have proven completely absent from administration in what they tell themselves is “good-faith bargaining.” You want to propose 65% of our pay when we fall ill or injured? Or steal from our precious PTO needed for family vacations, mental health breaks and self-betterment? I can understand with your upper-level salary how 65% seems like quite the chunk of change to live on, but I speak confidently for the majority when I say that we could not make ends meet if we were to be reimbursed 65% or less of our pay for an entire season of illness or injury. These seasons hit all too often. Administration needs to face the fact that we care daily for morbidly obese patients, aggressive and impulsive psychiatric patients (waiting an eternity for proper resources), and unknowingly come into contact with contagious individuals who were pushed out of the ED as fast as patient placement will allow.
We are not greedy employees complaining and asking for loftier benefits or hefty bonuses. All we are asking for is to keep what we have in place. We don’t enter each negotiation with a list of demands, but rather the gut-wrenching question of “what will they take from us this time?” That reality is the saddest of all.
Shame on you Providence administration. Shame on you for investing so much time in a mission statement specifically aimed to attract the most selfless, eager and intelligent of staff, only to constantly rob us of our benefits and offer contract proposals that require additional sacrifices beyond those we all chose with this profession, including weekends and holidays away from our loved ones. You have let us down in ways that I believe have permanently skewed our ability to trust or respect hospital administrators.
But know this: You have chosen to rival with a force of men and women who are resilient by nature. The very fabric of our being is indestructible because that is what nurses are called to be. We have been cussed out and spit on, endure being showered in every involuntary bodily fluid eruption, dodge flying food or plates from a bedside table, attempt to navigate the minefield between us and our patient’s needs, and still choose to re-enter that room to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of our patients because we are called to do so.
We are the shoulder to cry on for the unexpected goodbye, standing vigil for the best and worst news possible, and the light at the end of the tunnel on days of sheer defeat. We are there for the first steps with therapy, the first cry out of a newborn baby or the last shaky breath. We are the first face seen after of a life-changing surgery and the hand to squeeze through the excruciating dressing change. We are everything we need to be for our patient in that moment and will continue to be because that’s who we are. The rock that weathers any storm.
I wish you would have thought about us, your team, your foot soldiers, the people who give Providence Sacred Heart the reputation of “the place to go for the best care,” before you chose to offer a slap-in-the-face short term disability plan and an insulting alternative to our current plans. You have tried to break the Heart of Providence and we will not be shaken. We will rise and respond the only way we know how to when we have been confronted with a challenge — standing strong and standing together.
Nurses of Providence, do not let the actions of our administrators shame the name of Providence as a whole. They are not the heart of this institution — we are. While their proposals could not be more contrasting to our mission statement and core values, we have the opportunity to remind them who they work for and what we stand for by demanding justice. Together we hold the power to prove who Providence truly is at its core, reflecting the values we each held within ourselves long before our calling led us to Providence’s doorstep.