Last month National Nurses United, a self-described “union and professional association of professional nurses” with 185,000 members, announced an aggressive PR campaign to “Alert Public to Dangers of Medical Technology and Erosion of Care Standards.” Let’s just say NNU is pulling no punches, as evidenced by this video:

Or this radio ad:

Clearly NNU has a point of view slanted towards their constituency, which is what one would expect from a union, and clearly the organization isn’t shy about advocating for its members using an adversarial-slash-carpet-bombing outreach strategy. I think it’s safe to say accommodation and cooperation aren’t part of their approach to dealing with technology vendors and hospital administrators, at least publicly. It’s also worth noting that this PR campaign by the NNU is aimed squarely at the public and its own members as opposed to other healthcare stakeholders. (More of the NNU’s video, print, and radio/Internet campaign material can be found here.) The NNU website contains numerous “Tell us what you’re experiencing” links which lead to a survey page soliciting contact information and personal stories from members of the public.

The first questions that come to mind include what exactly NNU hopes to accomplish with this campaign, and whether or not such an aggressive, public-facing approach will yield the results NNU is looking for. The “About NNU” page of the NNU’s website states that their members are advocates for “guaranteed healthcare by expanding and updating Medicare to cover all Americans, for negotiating many of the best collective bargaining contracts for RNs in the nation, and for sponsorship of innovative legislation and regulatory protections for patients and nurses.”  I have to assume the “Insist On An RN” campaign is intended to further those goals. Will it? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, however, AHDI members may be wondering whether or not our association should try something aggressive and consumer-oriented like this. I definitely believe it’s a conversation worth having, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, NNU is a union, even if they have chosen to add the phrase “professional association” to describe themselves. In reality, unions and professional associations are two totally different entities from a legal standpoint, and there are things unions can do that professional associations such as AHDI cannot. Collective bargaining would certainly be included in that list. Secondly, having 185,000 (presumably) dues-paying members provides an organization with a level of resources which AHDI can’t begin to match. (By comparison, AHIMA claims 71,000 members.) It’s also worth pointing out that nurses have direct contact with patients (i.e., the public), whereas most AHDI members are about as far removed from the public eye as we can get.

Having said all that, however, I personally don’t think we should dismiss out of hand the possibility of adopting a more public-facing, aggressive, perhaps even adversarial stance regarding issues and entities which impact our profession. Please understand that I’m NOT using this venue to suggest this should in fact be official AHDI policy. In the first place, a blog post wouldn’t be the appropriate way to go about it, and secondly, I don’t yet have a firm opinion myself about whether this kind of approach would be productive or counterproductive. I don’t know if it’s going to work for National Nurses United, and I certainly don’t know if it would work for us. But honestly, at this point, what have we got to lose by considering all possibilities? The medical transcription sector is getting hammered (just in case you weren’t already aware of that fact), and many healthcare documentation specialists–AHDI members and nonmembers alike–are either getting their compensation cut or losing their jobs altogether. Doing nothing or maintaining the status quo is not an option if we hope to see our profession and our association survive, much less thrive.

So maybe it’s time to start talking about things we’ve been afraid to talk about before. As a newly elected member of the AHDI National Leadership Board, one thing I will promise to do is take a cold, hard look at the ways of doing and thinking we’ve already tried, and if we haven’t seen meaningful results after years of doing and thinking the same way, then I’m ready to take some chances and push some boundaries. If you share my viewpoint, or if you think I’m totally off-base, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Jay Vance, CMT, CHP
NLB At-Large Director-Elect

Filed under: Industry News

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