Nurse walk was a chance to talk

Published 9:47 am Friday, May 4, 2012


Many of you may have noticed us — nurses in red shirts walking along Fountain Street every week over the past several weeks — and have wondered what we could be up to. A recent article in the Tribune (somewhat incorrectly) referred to our walks as a “demonstration” over wages. There probably have been many questions and conversations about that article, and I appreciate this opportunity to clear the air.

There are approximately 120 registered nurses working at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea (formerly known as Naeve Hospital). We are members of the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA), and they represent us and work along side us in negotiating the contract we have with our hospital. We have been engaged in negotiations since July 2011, and we are hopeful that through our hard work and collaboration that we will soon have an amicable resolution to what has become a very long negotiation process.

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The red shirts we wear while walking bear the MNA logo, and we are proud to be affiliated with like-minded RNs from throughout Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. The shirts are our “team jersey,” and it gives an outward identification to the connection we all share. While walking, we have time to discuss important issues, update co-workers from all care areas on the progress of negotiations, and foster our friendships — all things that we seldom have the opportunity to do during the course of our busy work days. Walking is a positive and fun way to stay connected while enjoying the beautiful lake views. We want to assure you that the safety of our patients and of the nurses at their bedside has always been and will always be our No. 1 priority. One of the Mayo brothers’ fundamental beliefs was that, above all else, the needs of the patient must come first. Many of us grew up in Albert Lea or in a community that is served by this hospital. Some of us have devoted our entire nursing career to this hospital. This is our community hospital, and the patients we care for are our family members, neighbors, co-workers and friends. We are proud of this hospital and of the care we provide. RNs here have a long history of standing up for patient safety.

In 1990, our call to action was “Naeve Nurses Dare to Care,” and we remained on strike from mid-July to October in order to abolish the practice of mandatory overtime. Even today, every patient and every nurse here benefits from our commitment to patient safety all those years ago.

We believe that patient safety is influenced by three powerful forces, and our contract goals are focused around these forces. First of all, the assurance of consistently appropriate staffing, with a sensible cushion for the minute-by-minute changes that regularly occur within a hospital. Secondly, a working atmosphere that fosters empowerment, the support of our supervisors, and the belief that our input is valued. And thirdly, positioning our hospital to successfully attract and recruit new nurses as well as retain experienced and highly skilled nurses. Many nurses in this community drive to work at hospitals in Austin, Mankato, Owatonna and Rochester (to name a few) and better economic/benefit packages certainly play a role in their decisions.

Nurses here are united in purpose — to provide our patients the best care, every minute of every day. We work together, we walk together, and we continue to Dare to Care.


Kathleen J. Lehman

registered nurse

local co-chairwoman

Minnesota Nurses Association

Albert Lea


Editor’s note: The Tribune’s use of the word “demonstration” adheres to dictionary definitions. Moreover, the administration used “picket” and the nurses used “walk” so “demonstration” falls neutrally in between.