Nurses: Failure is Not Possible

Registered Nurses and NNU Co-Presidents Karen Higgins, Jean Ross, and Deborah Burger kick-off NNU's 2011 Staff Nurse Assembly

Ashley Forsberg, a Michigan RN, held the microphone Monday to share a quote she saw during a recent visit to the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, the historic Washington, D.C. headquarters of the National Woman’s Party. “Failure is not possible,” she recited.

The crowd of nurses erupted in applause. “Well, in THIS room, failure is impossible,” she added.

The nearly 800 RNS from across the country who gathered at National Nurses United’s 2011 Staff Nurse Assembly in Washington, D.C. know they will not fail. They are agents of change.

They heard from nurse leaders throughout the country about the various contract accomplishments from the past year.

The RNs described tough moments – battles with management, strikes, and administration attempts to vilify nurses.

But they persevered and won.

They won in Florida and Massachusetts. They won in Washington, D.C., Michigan, and California.  And, they won in Pennsylvania, Maine, and Illinois.

“No matter how big your bosses think they are,” said Fran Prusinski, an RN from Pennsylvania. “You are much bigger.”

They showed the power of National Nurses United.

“We are 165,000 union nurses and we are growing,” Jill Furillo, an RN and NNU’s national bargaining director. “We are strong.”

While the nurses celebrated their successes, they talked about the reality happening to them, their families, and their communities.

The NNU co-presidents shared stories from nurses about how the economic crisis has impacted them.

The stories including nurses who are now sole family providers because their spouses were laid off. Others are single-parents who pray their hours don’t get cut. And still others are postponing their planned retirement.

NNU co-president and RN Karen Higgins talked about a Michigan nurse – whose husband is struggling to keep his business afloat – who had to go from part-time to full-time work to help support her family, including a daughter with special needs.

To heal the country, NNU is demanding a new Main Street Contract for the American People.

“Thank you so much for all the work,” she said. “We have so much work ahead of us. But we can do it because we are nurses.”

Nurses will be leading this charge.  They must be advocates for patients beyond the bedside.

The Main Street Contract calls for jobs at living wages; equal access to free education; guaranteed healthcare; good housing; the right to collectively organize and bargain;  and a just tax system where the corporations and wealthy pay their fair share.

“In order to protect those patients, you are going to have come out and talk about what’s really going on in this country,” Jean Ross, RN, NNU co-president.

And, Americans must understand it’s not their fault.  Corporations are raking in the money at record rates.

“We have to take back our communities. We have to stand up to those corporations,” said Deborah Burger, RN and co-president. “Enough is enough. We have to say, ‘Get the hell out of here because you are destroying our communities.’”

The nurses Monday heard the message. And, they are ready to fight. Wall Street has trumped Main Street too long.

Anna Walker, an RN from Minnesota, listened intently. She said she’s angry about how the country’s struggles are put on the backs of the middle class.

She looks forward to visiting her Minnesota legislators Tuesday after the NNU rally in front of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce building and Upper Senate Park in D.C. “I have a few things I want to say to them,” she said.