Nursing unions gain ground

Nursing unions aren't a new force in the healthcare business by any means. But during the past year, as we see it, nursing unions have built up a lot of momentum, and we expect to see more next year. In short, be prepared for activist nurses to take a stronger stand in 2010.

While there's no one signal that points to a more engaged and energized nursing industry, a few data points stood out for us. Probably the most obvious was the creation of National Nurses United, a union that includes 150,000 members from three previously separate groups.

The merger, announced a few weeks ago, brings together the vibrant, vocal California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, United American Nurses and Massachusetts Nurses Association. Among other aims, the newly-merged organizations plan to fight for higher nurse-to-patient ratios and advocate for public policy changes to support this goal.

We also think the rivalry between the Service Employees International Union and upstart competitor National Union of Healthcare Workers is likely to bring more life to healthcare recruitment campaigns overall, including campaigns to involve nursing staffers.

Once the smoke clears over reform, nursing unions will ramp up their campaigns for recognition and respect--and we expect them to make some headway.

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