Monday, October 29, 2012

CNA vs. CMA. Political Activism vs. Patient Advocacy

We are in the home stretch of the 2012 election. Every time I turn on the TV or listen to the radio I hear another political ad telling me to vote yes for something or no for something else. At the end of the commercials there are always a list of sponsors who paid good money to put this drivel on the air.

Curiously, many of the ads list as a sponsor the California Nurses Association. Their endorsements in the election include such non-nursing issues as how car insurance premiums are calculated and how out of state corporations are taxed in California. I wondered, why in the world would the nice nurses at my hospital care about such topics? We discuss subjects such as patient safety in the operating room and improving hospital efficiency, but never about changing the definition of California's three strikes law.

Finally I decided to go to the source of this political activism, the website for the CNA. I was immediately struck by how political the CNA is. Throughout the home page are advice on how to vote next week. There is a link that takes you to a page that contains a nice little cutout you can take to the polling booth to show you who to vote for and how to vote on each California proposition. In addition to all the voting directives, the home page also contains pictures of nurses holding picket signs and kudos to nurses who were able to negotiate higher paying contracts. There is virtually nothing on the home page about improving patient health, as one would expect from a website run by nurses.

By contrast, when I go to the California Medical Association website, there is almost nothing on the home page that directs physicians how to vote in the election. As a matter of fact, you have to scroll down a bit before you even see any news about political activism, a little tidbit about how the CMA supports California's climate change law. (As an aside, I think the CMA is trying to kiss some legislators' asses by endorsing this measure. California is already losing major corporations to other states because of onerous and over the top taxes and regulations. This ill conceived climate change law will do nothing to help global warming around the world but will make companies think twice before opening another factory here in the state. When good companies don't come here, their well insured employees don't either. Does the CMA think we doctors prefer to treat MediCal patients instead of privately insured ones? There must have been a medical marijuana shop nearby blowing their fumes into the CMA's conference room when they endorsed this law. This message fully endorsed and sponsored by ZMD.)

Anyway, I go back to the CNA's website to see what's going on. To get to the bottom of the story, you have to click on the About link. Then right there, in the first sentence, is the answer. "Founded in 1903, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee/AFL-CIO is a premier organization of registered nurses..." So the CNA isn't really an organization for patient teaching and nurses training. It is a political union no different from the Service Employees International Union or the United Autoworkers Union. It's no wonder I have an almost totally opposite viewpoint of how I will vote next week. They have hijacked the good name of nurses to promote their political causes. They are using the trust patients have of nurses and abusing it for their own motives. For shame.

The CNA should stop deceiving people about what kind of organization they are. Virtually none of our nurses are the activists the CNA would like the public to believe. They work long hours, do jobs we doctors wouldn't want thrust upon us, and take crap from patients and their families all day long. Yet they are still able to show compassion and respect that many of those patients don't really deserve but still receive. To me, that's what the nurses are all about, not how they will vote on genetically modified food labeling. I bet the CNA would be much less successful in persuading voters if they really knew that they are just another arm of the AFL-CIO.

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