Fear: an unpleasant feeling of apprehension or distress caused
by the presence or anticipation of danger.
We have all experienced fear throughout the course of our
lives. Some of us face our fears head on and do not let them
consume our lives. Some of us let fear overwhelm our lives
and infringe on our daily routines. Sometimes our fears are
so strong that it requires people to seek medical intervention.
We would not be human if we were not fearful of things that
happen in our lives. It is what we do with those fears that
ultimately determine how it affects our lives.
Fear plays a significant role in a nurse’s life. Fear
of caring for your first patient in nursing school. Fear of
giving your first injection. Fear of your instructors. Fear
of taking your licensing boards. Fear of your first day as
a full-fledged registered nurse. Fear of your first day in
charge. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of not having enough
staff. Fear of speaking up for your nursing practice and working
conditions. Fear of organizing a union.
Every day nurses face these and numerous other fears in the
work place. These situations cause apprehension and anxiety.
It is how a nurse handles this fear that ultimately helps
her overcome her anxiety and apprehension over the day- to-
day situations that arise in the work place.
“I have learned over the years that when one’s
mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be
done does away with fear.” Rosa Parks
Over time, nurses develop the critical thinking skills necessary
to face patient care problems that cause them to be apprehensive
and fearful. Through experience and with the support of mentors,
nurses conquer their anxieties about giving new medications,
dealing with changes in a patient’s condition and taking
charge. Experience gives nurses the knowledge and skills to
see what needs to be done and do it. There is not enough time
to let fear overcome you when your patient is crashing. You
have to act and you learn by doing. Eventually the apprehension
“Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in
the world.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nurses who have formed a union in their workplace know the
initial fear, apprehension, and anxiety that comes with the
process. They learned early on that in order to be successful
at obtaining a legally protected voice for their nursing practice
and working conditions they would have to stand together to
face down the employer’s anti-union campaign. They did
not let fear and intimidation stop them from doing what they
felt was right in order to protect their patients and their
nursing practice. Yes, they were scared but they understood
that organizing a union in their workplace was the most professional
thing they could do to insure the safety of their patients
and their nursing practice. They overcame the fear. They organized
“You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing
the means he uses to frighten you.” Eric Hoffer
In non-unionized facilities both the nurses and the employer
are fearful of any attempt to organize a union at their facility,
but for very different reasons. The employer’s fear
is very simple: The employer does not want nurses to have
a seat at the table or an equal say in their working conditions.
The employer wants to maintain the power of unilateral decision
making. The employer does not want to lose the power they
have to change policies and benefits at a moments notice.
That is why employers will spend millions of dollars on anti-union
consultants and campaigns.
Nurses’ fears are different. Nurses are fearful of losing
their jobs in their attempt at organizing a union in their
workplace. Nurses are faced with an employer’s attempt
to intimidate them through captive audience meetings and aggressive
middle management coercion. Managers will be required to conduct
one-on-one anti-union meetings telling nurses they will lose
their flexibility in scheduling, that nurses will be unable
to have a say in staffing and patient care, and that they
will have no power in negotiating their own contract. All
of which are untrue.
“If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit at home
and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Andrew Carnegie
Nurses who work under conditions that are detrimental to the
safe care of their patients and their practice really have
only a few choices. They can decide to stay and continue to
work under the present conditions, placing their patients
and licenses at risk and letting management make all of the
decisions. They can leave and go work someplace else or they
can stay and help build a union.
Nurses who have organized a union will tell you that, yes,
it is hard work. But by building unity and working together
they were able to face the fears and apprehensions of management’s
intimidation schemes. If you are tired of struggling to give
your patients the safe care they deserve, if you are tired
of unfair working conditions, or if you are tired of putting
your license on the line then you need to go out and get busy.
Unity and strength can only be gained by talking to each other
and forming a strong, unified front.
“We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing
our hopes.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy
If your hope is to have a legally protected voice in your
facility, then you have to commit to forming a union. Yes,
it takes work. But with a unified front you will make it known
that you are serious about the effort to unionize. More importantly,
the more upfront and unified you are the easier it will be
to send a message to management that you are taking a stand
to protect your patients and your practice.
If your hope is to have a say in how you care for your patients,
then you need to work with your colleagues to build unity
and strength. If your hope is to have a say in how you practice
your profession, then you need to face those apprehensions
and anxieties and form a union. 23,000 other registered nurses
and health care professionals have taken that step. Why not