Viewpoint: Why this hospital administrator is pro-union

Workers' interest in unionization is the highest it has been in decades. The healthcare industry is feeling the effects of such labor actions, and tensions can run high as systems seek to avoid strikes.  

One anonymous hospital administrator recently expressed an uncommon opinion for a midlevel manager: She said she is pro-union, according to a June 11 opinion piece published in MedPage Today

The article was written by Harry Severance, MD — an adjunct assistant professor in the department of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C. — and describes a conversation Dr. Severance had with this early-career administrator. 

The administrator was once a registered nurse but had moved into management hoping for less stress, better hours and better pay. She claimed to be "secretly very pro-union within healthcare," Dr. Severance wrote. 

The administrator told Dr. Severance that she feels corporate management has become disconnected from the realities of front-line healthcare work — for example, the violence caregivers face on a regular basis. She said other managers seem more concerned with profit, or at least combating financial loss, than ensuring positive worker conditions and patient outcomes 

The administrator also said that other managers claim to not feel sorry for nurses and physicians since they chose to go into high-stress fields; these managers believe nurses and physicians should figure out how to make healthcare safe for patients with the circumstances they are dealt rather than expecting management to do so for them. 

If she advocates for her workers, the administrator feels she will be seen as "weak" and "not able to control [her] troops," Dr. Severance wrote. She also fears she will be replaced or  prohibited from advancing. 

However, the administrator believes if the workers at her organization unionized, they would be more likely to see workplace changes, according to Dr. Severance. If a union was involved, corporate management would probably bring in a negotiating team that would settle for some sort of compromise rather than face a strike. 

The administrator believes others who moved from clinical management roles might feel similarly, although she acknowledges that more leaders are entering healthcare with no clinical background. 

Read the full viewpoint from Dr. Severance here.

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