In a letter this week to more than 20,000 nursing union members, the president of the Minnesota Nurses Association said a series of Star Tribune articles on nursing discipline unfairly tarnishes all nurses.
"The cases reported by the newspaper are disturbing but also very limited," wrote Linda Hamilton, who has been president of the state's largest nurses union since 2009. "It would be a disservice to good nurses everywhere to let this smear campaign gain a groundswell."
MNA spokesman Rick Fuentes said Wednesday that the union has heard from members who say they're concerned that the stories affect their workplaces.
"When you start labeling nurses as diverting, it makes it seem like they are all like that," Fuentes said. "That's not fair."
Hamilton's statement said the Board of Nursing "has some difficult questions to answer" regarding its disciplinary process, echoing a statement it provided to the legislature last week when it called for more scrutiny of nursing discipline.
The statement incorrectly reported that the Star Tribune has not asked the union to comment on the nursing stories "since they were first printed." Prior to the publication of the first story Oct. 6, the union declined to comment on the disciplinary process when contacted by the Star Tribune. Last week, a reporter again contacted the union, which declined to comment.
The full letter:
"Dear MNA Members:
You may have recently seen the Minneapolis newspaper’s series regarding the Minnesota Board of Nursing’s discipline process.
We take the reputation of nurses, as well as the safety of patients, very seriously. The most recent Gallup poll showed nurses’ trustworthiness at 85 percent of the American public. That’s not only the highest among all professions, it’s the highest credibility we have ever had since Gallup began asking about nurses.
The Minnesota Nurses Association has not been asked to comment on these nurse stories since they were first printed, and we’ve decided not to respond or repost the stories in any manner.
You may ask why. MNA believes that to comment or add to the negative publicity would continue to further the damage to nurses’ reputations. The cases reported by the newspaper are disturbing but also very limited. It would be a disservice to good nurses everywhere to let this smear campaign gain a groundswell. Our staff has been tracking these stories and revealed that they are among the least popular articles in this newspaper. They have received extremely limited coverage among other media outlets.
As all of you know, these few stories are not representative of the nearly 120,000 RNs and LPNs practicing in Minnesota, the majority of whom are skilled caregivers who always put patient safety first.
MNA was requested to provide testimony to the joint legislative committee investigating the procedures of the Board of Nursing, which is where the focus should be. The Board has some difficult questions to answer, and the state may need to give the Board resources to fulfill its mission. Policy-makers will look to us as a resource and to help shape this ongoing and multi-faceted discussion.
MNA will continue to be an advocate for nurses in the workplace, and we will continue to monitor the coverage and the effects in the legislature. If you feel the effects of these stories have affected your workplace conditions, please contact us at the MNA office.
MNA believes in a fair system of oversight that protects patients, but also treats substance abuse for the chronic disease that it is. I hope that you will join me in advocating for the profession as these important issues are discussed during the legislative session. I also encourage you to write a letter to the editor of your local paper or the Star Tribune in support of the profession.
Please do not hesitate to contact me or MNA staff with further questions.
Linda Hamilton, RN, BSN