One change management theory posits that change is accomplished by "unfreezing" current ways of doing things, rearranging to a different configuration, then "refreezing" the changes into place.
As the Minnesota Nurses' Association and a number of Twin Cities hospital systems square off during contract negotiations and another likely strike, things are seriously unfrozen. Normally, the change process is carried out carefully and intentionally. Well, not this one. Change is coming, and no one really seems to know either what we're transitioning from or transitioning to. Neither side is articulating a vision for high-quality and sustainable health care.
MNA demands from employers concessions that run afoul of a particular from Matt Miller's The Tyranny of Dead Ideas. Specifically, "My company should take care of me." Much of the health care and all the pensions provided for MNA nurses are funded by the employer. The costs of these benefits, according to the employer, are becoming unsustainable. Perhaps they are. Even if they aren't, perhaps it's time to remove these benefits from the employer's pervue: they will no longer have to fuss with it and we will no longer feel blackmailed into staying someplace we'd rather not be.
The employer, on the other hand, fails to understand something that must be grasped with utter clarity: hospital nurses are not just the "face of health care" within their facility, they are health care. Whatever the proposal, from changes in the supply chain to staffing patterns, the first question must be, "What impact will this have on the nurses' effectiveness?" If other questions are being asked instead, too often it's because the effect on nursing care is already understood to be negative. Ditto if anyone but nurses are called upon to answer the question.
Nurses need a financially viable venue in which to practice. Hospitals need a dedicated, professional, and effective nursing staff. Both need to provide for the other in ways that are sustainable and make it more likely to get what they need from the other party. That neither side really seems to know what that looks like leaves everyone feeling like they're living a Despair.com poster.
Right now, everything is in flux, in chaos, unfrozen. Anything is possible. Of course, "anything" includes utter disaster. It also includes the possibility of extraordinary adventure and even extraordinary success, a success that meets everyone's needs and exceeds everyone's expectations.
Does either side realize this, and is either side willing to reach for this, work for this, and convince the other side that it's possible?
I hope so.