Boyle Fellow Blog: Boyle Fellow Bruce Tran Reflects on MNA Nurses’ Picket

Our Fr. Boyle Fellow Bruce Tran attended the MNA Nurses’ Picket outside Brigham and Women’s Hospital back in February, and has written the following reflection on his experience, and what led the nurses to picket in the first place.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital Nurses Takes a Stand

“This February, the registered nurses at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area- home to many prestigious hospitals and medical schools such as Harvard Medical School- took a stand against their poor work conditions and quality of care for their patients. Organized by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), the picket was to highlight the lack of staff and beds needed to safely care for their patients. “Patients, nurses, and all frontline staff at Brigham and Women’s Hospital desperately need changes that will make conditions safer and more respectful,” said Kelly Morgan, a labor and delivery nurse and BWH MNA Chair. “We will picket to hold Mass General Brigham accountable for throwing its corporate weight around and worsening the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than collaborate with nurses on how to overcome a staffing crisis, the hospital has been making unilateral decisions that disrupt our lives and ability to provide quality care.”

Staffing issues have been a critical complaint made by registered nurses, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The complaint extended to how management had placed a greater emphasis on profits- undermining the nurses’ union- rather than the safety and care of their patients by having a sufficient number of registered nurses to care for them without excess wait time and lack of hospital beds. The management’s alleged focus on the Magnet Recognition Program status where the hospitals pay an outside agency to evaluate BWH’s nursing program and provide them with a designation or recognition that shows they value nurses, would be hypocritical given the concerns nurses are raising with this picket.

Marching without rest on a cold Thursday afternoon on the sidewalks in front of 75 Francis St, nurses and supporters made their intentions clear.  They carried signs and chanted slogans to highlight the crisis they and their patients face, while cars and trucks drove by, honking their horns in a show of solidarity, and TV news companies showed up to record the spectacle. Some nurses had their children with them to highlight how they have few chances to be with them in their off time out of work. Union leadership had also shown up to support their members showing a contrast to the alleged profit-minded higherups at the hospital by driving a truck around the block, blaring popular hit music to raise the spirits and morale of the participants in the picket.

One sign a nurse held particularly stood out that read “If we’re out here, something’s wrong in there!” Indeed, it showed a large contrast as nurses in medical scrubs walk back and forth in the cold in comparison to the patients and security personnel entering and leaving the hospital. Some apologized to nurses as they entered, seeking treatment for whatever ailed them. What will it take for this crisis to reach a conclusion? Only time will tell.”

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