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The Importance of Registered Nurses Being Unionized


Nurses are skilled and trained professionals who have the duty of caring for the sick and the frail. In addition to helping patients in matters of healthy wellness, they also perform procedures and treatment but only as prescribed by doctors or their assistants (Quan, 2006). Nurses are very important in the medical field because of the many duties that they perform. In fact, without the nurses, the physicians can not offer their services to the patients effectively. As registered nurses, they will be expected to treat and care for the patients as well as advice on diseases and medication. Moreover, nurses keep and preserve the medical records, examine the medical tests, support the patients and their family members emotionally and also make follow-ups to the patients. Registered nurses have the obligation of supervising non-registered nurses (Khan, 2009).

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Considering the great importance that nurses possess in the medical field, everything should be done by the employer to retain them in a work environment that is conducive. One of the ways which ensure that the rights and the welfare of the nurses are observed is by them joining a professional union. It is therefore important for all the one thousand registered nurses of this hospital to be members of American Professionals Union.

Trade unions also referred to as labor unions have been in existence from as early as the eighteenth century. They were formed on the verge of the industrial revolution when the number of both the semi-skilled and unskilled workers thronged into the cities looking for jobs. There was a great cry among these workers due to the exploitation they faced from their employers. The workers were forced by such conditions to organize themselves into groups and negotiate for better working conditions (Webb, 1920).

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008), a labor union is “an organization consisting predominantly of employees, the principal activities of which include the negotiation of rates of pay and conditions of employment for its members.” Employees working for a particular person can decide to vote for a third party, who would represent them to their employer in issues that deal with their working conditions, hours and wages. Those who join a labor union will be required to pay the registration fee and also monthly dues to facilitate the running of the union.

By joining the American Professionals Union, the nurses will benefit in different ways. The American Federation of Professionals (2003), which is a not-for-profit labor union, describes a union as a “vehicle through which workers exercise their economic power.” America Professional Union would represent the nurses to the hospital management or government and offer services such as collective bargaining, grievance handling, contract enforcement and arbitration.

Challenges faced by the nurses

The nursing has continued to face continued challenges and this has contributed to the decline of the number of people who would like to join the profession. This is despite the heavy load that the nurses continue to bear while caring for the sick. It is claimed that nurses in many parts of the world are overworked or forced to perform duties that are outside their scope. A report by the American Hospital Association and which was released in June 2001 showed that there were 126,000 unfilled nursing positions in the United States of America (Coates, 2001). Many nurses that are working in the health facilities were shown as lacking competence and experience.

The report attributed this shortage to lack of adequate nursing students, working conditions that are poor and female nurses who are the majority in the profession moving to other fields (Coates, 2001). In addition, nurses have job options that are wide and the patient population that has more medical needs has increased. Another important factor that has attributed to this shortage is the fact that many qualified nurses have opted to practice nursing part-time, meaning that they either operate their own clinics or do other jobs. This report shows that more than thirty percent of the nurses in California are part-time nurses with about forty percent not in direct care. The shortage of nurses has meant that those in medical facilities are required to work for longer hours with some even working for more than twelve hours per day, which is just stressful (Coates, 2001).

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The other great challenge experienced by nurses is low pay. There has been an argument that with the much work that nurses do, they ought to be paid more than they are currently paid. Traditionally, nurses have continued to be paid low wages especially considering the work they do. A nurse is expected to change beds, empty the pans and fill water containers among other related duties. There are nurses who are lucky to have nursing assistants employed to do such duties (Gorman, 2009). However, nurses who have worked hard to the position of a Licensed Vocational Nurse usually are in high demand and thus earn relatively high salaries.

Nurses also face the challenge of working in unsafe environments. This particularly applies to those who work in psychiatric units and thus deals with people who are mentally handicapped who may inflict them with real bodily harm (Delaney, 2008). Nurses are also faced with the test of being sued for medical malpractice. In their line of duty, they may get themselves sued for suspected negligence which they may have committed and which may have caused injury to a patient. Medical malpractice lawsuits are known to be very costly for any medical practitioner and are also time-consuming despite the fact that the nurse may end up winning the case (Thomson Reuters, 2009).

Benefits of Joining trade unions

After analyzing such challenges, no hospital management may hesitate in releasing its nurses to join the American Professionals Union or any other registered labor union. By being unionized, the 1000 nurses will benefit from the services that are offered by the union. One, they will be represented to the management of the hospital and negotiate for better working conditions and wages in what is referred to as collective bargaining (Fiehn & Andrew, 2006). Collective bargaining is very fruitful as it is practically impossible for all the one thousand nurses to approach the management for discussions.

It is better when a union representative meets with the employer and negotiates the contract on behalf of the nurses as they will have critical and unbiased results without favoring any of the two parties (Smith, 2009). There are different matters that are in the labor contract and that can be negotiated. They include wages, working hours, working conditions, benefits and companies policies. After the union’s representatives and the hospital management agree on all the details of the contract, it is valid for a specific period of time and can be renegotiated after the period expires (Smith, 2009). Since the drafting of the contract is done by the union with the input of the employee being considered as well as employers limitations, it will reflect the desires of both the employer and the employee. Collective bargaining does not favor the employees as others have suggested. In addition to workers speaking together in unity to promote their welfare, the employer will also gain from the agreement as it clearly states what both sides expect (Smith, 2009).

In addition to collective bargaining, the trade union will work to promote opportunities that are equal at work and also offer support and advice to the members especially on legislation. They also provide services such as legal assistance, welfare benefits, training and education as well as financial services (Smith, 2009).

On legal issues, nurses would benefit in case one is issued on account of being involved in medical malpractice. Many trade unions provide legal services to their members which includes assistance for social claims. The nurses may not be experienced in the legal field but the unions usually have lawyers who handle any cases filed against their members and that involve their profession. This is very important as it allows the nurse to continue with his or her duties as the union lawyers represent him or her in court (Smith & Hoath, 1975).

Medical practitioners and in this case nurses are usually involved in work that may be subject them to legal scrutiny and trade unions will be of great help on such occasions (Smithson, 2009). In case the nurses feel that they have been unfairly treated in the workplace, they have a right to consult their trade union representatives who can offer legal advice. They may not be required to pay as much as they would have if they were to contact a private lawyer (Smithson, 2009). In case the nurse suffers physical or any other harm while on the line of duty, the union will assist him or her to obtain full compensation.

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Being members of the trade union, the nurses will not live under the fear of job loss. Especially in these days of World economic crisis, many employers have continued to lay off their workers creating a state of fear in those still employed. As members of American Professionals association, the nurses will be assured of their job security and even if they are laid off, it will be done justly and they will also be assured of their pension. (Smithson, 2009). Unions have also assisted in fighting against any form of discrimination towards workers, whether in the lines of race, color, gender, disability or any other factor. Those who feel that they are being discriminated against can report to the union’s representative’s office.

Many professional unions ensure that their members meet specific qualifications before they can be allowed to work. This is very advantageous to the employer as only the qualified and those who have met specific standards are absorbed into the union. Sometimes, the unions may organize educational workshops and training for their members enabling them to meet the working standards that have been set for the professional (Johnleemk, 2007).

Many people have argued that there is no need for labor unions as workers are rewarded depending on how much they contribute to the community. However they should understand that unions offer a means by which workers can coordinate and organize communication between them and the management. They also allow their members to better their skills and also ensure that their contributions are indispensable and more valuable (Johnleemk 2007).

Traditionally, nursing profession has been female-dominated and research has shown that it is easy to unionize men than women. However, in recent days more women are joining trade unions and other professional organizations as they have really assisted them in legal insurance. Different organizations have been formed for nurses to join. Despite this fact, many nurses still remain nonmembers of any professional organization (Young, 1981).

Recommendations and conclusion

Those who would oppose their employees in joining labor unions would argue that they monopolize labor supply (Johnleemk, 2007). Others may fear that if the workers become members of a trade union, they would not be committed to their work with the expectation that the union would support them. However, this is not always the case as these unions have a constitution that guides them on when they should intervene in case of a disagreement between the employer and the employee. There are also stipulated rules in the contract on the steps that the employer should take when an employee is involved in indiscipline cases.

There are employees who oppose unionization because they do not want to pay the monthly submission though they want to enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining. In case some workers fail to be unionized and it reaches a point where the union calls for a strike, the unionized members will be at a disadvantage as the employer can decide to lay them off and retain the non-unionized. This is despite the fact that he or she may be having enough money to improve meet their demands. However, when all employees are unionized, the employer will be more than willing to negotiate with the workers’ representatives and improver their terms and conditions of work (Johnleemk, 2007).

It is without any doubt that the one thousand nurses will benefit more when they are unionized than if not. The management should not presume that they will not do their work effectively while they are members of the American Professionals Union. In fact, when the workers feel that the employer respects their freedom, they tend to work hard and opt to stick with the particular employer.

Some employers are of the idea that if they allow their workers to join labor unions, they will end up being incited to engage in inconsiderate demands and activities such as industrial strikes. Dealing with an aftermath of the strike actions will be expensive for the employer as he or she will have increased expenses incurred as attorney’s fees, arbitration costs, negotiations, security provision and loss of sales (Legal Ferret, 2008). However, every worker should know that the employees will not engage in such activities if their working conditions are made better and their voice is heard.

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Trade unions have in the past is described as leaning more to politics than the welfare of their members. This has been evidenced when major trade unions have leaned towards one political party or candidate. Others have been accused of showing discrimination against some members of the community (Milton, 2007). The trade union officials have not been left behind either, but have been accused of working towards their own interests than those of their members. Despite all the accusations, some of which are true, the benefits of labor unions can not be ignored as they are clearly evident.

It is important, for every hospital management to understand that nurses are in very high demand and when they feel that they are being treated unfairly, they may opt to move to greener pastures. It is therefore important for the management of the hospital to encourage the nurses to join the union and participate in all its activities in addition to making use of all its services.

It is the responsibility of the employer to make sure that in addition to allowing the workers to join the labor unions, the working conditions of the employees are at their best. Their wages should be competitive and they should be paid for any hour they work overtime. They should also be encouraged to choose their internal representatives who will be acting as the link between the management and the workers. This would prevent any situation where the employees would join others in industrial strikes or other forms of protesting against poor working conditions.

In conclusion, the management of the hospital should allow all the willing nurses to join the American Professionals Union though they should do so at their will.


Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008). Trade union census. Web.

Coates. (2001). Critical challenge. Nurse week. Web.

Delaney. (2008). Challenges faced by inpatient child/adolescent psychiatric nurses. Psychosocial nursing. Web.

Goman, T. (2009). Experience the joys of becoming a registered nurse – nationwide positions, great pay and benefits. Ezine articles. Web.

Fiehn, J. & Miller, A. (2006). Trade unions at work. Web.

Johnleemk. (2009). Pros and cons of unionization. Web.

Khan, S. (2009). Job responsibilities of a registered nurse. Web. 

Legal Ferret, (2008). Web.

Quan, K. (2006). What is a nurse? 2009. Web.

Thomson Reuters. (2009). Medical practice. FindLaw. Web.

Smith, S.E. What is collective bargaining? WiseGeek. 2009. Web.

Smith, C & Hoath, D. (1975). Law and the underprivileged. Web.

Smithson, R. (2009). The advantages of joining a trade union. Web.

Webb, S. (1920). History of trade unionism. Longmans and Co. London. Ch.1.

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