Physician residents and fellows unionize at two major California health systems

Seeking stronger workplace protections, physician residents and fellows at both Stanford Health Care and the University of Southern California’s (USC) Keck School of Medicine have voted to join the Committee of Interns and Residents, a chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Despite being frontline healthcare workers, most Stanford residents were excluded from the first round of the health system’s COVID vaccine rollout in December 2020. The system ultimately revised its plan to include residents, but the delay damaged Stanford’s relationship with residents, adding momentum to the unionization movement. Meanwhile, Keck’s residents unanimously voted in favor of joining the union, aiming for higher compensation and greater workplace representation.

The Gist: While nurses and other healthcare workers in California, as in many other parts of the country, have been increasingly banding together for higher pay and better working conditions, physician residents and fellows contemplating unionization is a newer trend. 

Physicians-in-training have historically accepted long work hours and low pay as a rite of passage, and have shied away from organizing. But pandemic working conditions, the growing trend of physician employment, and generational shifts in the physician workforce have changed the profession in a multitude of ways. 

Health systems and training programs must actively engage in understanding and supporting the needs of younger doctors, who will soon comprise a majority of the physician workforce.

Stanford, Packard nurses greenlight strike

Thousands of nurses at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children’s hospitals in Palo Alto, Calif., have authorized the union representing them to call a strike. 

In an April 8 news release, the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement said more than 4,500 nurses at Stanford and Packard, or 93 percent of all nurses eligible, voted in favor of strike authorization. They are calling on hospital management to adequately address staffing, citing consistent overtime and nurses’ complaints of inadequate resources, training or staff. They also seek improved access to mental health counseling, as well as competitive wages and benefits.

“The decision by members to overwhelmingly authorize a strike shows that we are fed up with the status quo of working conditions at the hospitals,” Colleen Borges, union president and a nurse in the pediatric oncology department, said in the release. “We need contracts that allow us to care for ourselves and our families so we can continue providing world-class care.”

Nurses authorized the strike after bargaining for the last 13 weeks and are working without contracts. The vote does not mean a strike will occur, but it gives the union the ability to issue an official strike notice. 

In a statement shared with Becker’s, Stanford expressed its support for negotiations rather than a strike.

“We are committed, through good faith bargaining, to reach agreement on new contracts that provide nurses a highly competitive compensation package, along with proposals that further our commitment to enhancing staffing and wellness benefits for nurses,” the statement said.

The hospital also said it is taking the steps to prepare for the possibility of a strike, while hoping a strike is averted.

“Given the progress we have made by working constructively with the union, we should be able to reach agreements that will allow us to continue to attract and retain the high caliber of nurses who so meaningfully contribute to our hospitals’ reputation for excellence,” the statement read. 

The Great Resignation has burdened those left behind 

Forbes India - Jobs: What Is Fuelling The Great Resignation In America?

The workers who have stayed on at their jobs amid the Great Resignation are struggling to fill the gaps left by former colleagues, CNBC reported Nov. 2. 

The effects of the Great Resignation continue to be felt by companies after a record high of 4.3 million workers quit their jobs in August alone. The workers who remained in their roles, though, are struggling with their new increased workload.

A report by the Society for Human Resource Management that surveyed 1,150 employed Americans in July as well as 220 executives illuminated some of the challenges of the workers who stayed. 

It found that 52 percent of workers who stayed with their companies have taken on more responsibilities, with 30 percent of remaining employees stating they struggle to complete necessary tasks. A majority of workers are questioning whether their pay is high enough, and 27 percent feel less loyalty to their company. 

This worker dissatisfaction opens up a vicious cycle, Johnny Taylor Jr., president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, told CNBC.

“The employees who remain now say, ‘I’m working too hard, I don’t have balance in my life, etc.’ And so then they want to leave and thus a vicious cycle continues” Mr. Taylor told CNBC

Thus, it’s more important now than ever for employers to exercise empathy and listen to what their employees are experiencing in the wake of workplace shifts. 

“Invest in them today,” Alex Durand, a career transition and leadership coach, told CNBC. “Show them you care before they tell you they are leaving.”

A new divide is making the workforce crisis worse

https://mailchi.mp/bfba3731d0e6/the-weekly-gist-july-2-2021?e=d1e747d2d8

How the Hybrid Workforce will Drive the Future of Work

Health system executives continue to tell us that the top issue now keeping them up at night is workforce engagement.

Exhausted from the COVID experience, facing renewed cost pressures, and in the midst of a once-in-a-generation rethink of work-life balance among employees, health systems are having increasing difficulty filling vacant positions, and holding on to key staff—particularly clinical talent. One flashpoint that has emerged recently, according to leaders we work with, is the growing divide between those working a “hybrid” schedule—part at home, part in the office—and those who must show up in person for work because of their roles. Largely this split has administrative staff on one side and clinical workers on the other, leading doctors, nurses, and other clinicians to complain that they have to come into work (and have throughout the pandemic), while their administrative colleagues can continue to “Zoom in”. There’s growing resentment among those who don’t have the flexibility to take a kid to baseball practice at 3 o’clock, or let the cable guy in at noon without scheduling time off, making the sense of burnout and malaise even more intense. Add to that the resurgence in COVID admissions in some markets, and the “help wanted” situation in the broader economy, and the health system workforce crisis looks worse and worse. Beyond raising wages, which is likely inevitable for most organizations, there is a need to rethink job design and work patterns, to allow a tired, frustrated, and—thanks to the in-person/WFH divide—envious workforce the chance to recover from an incredibly difficult year.