Sally Aniel has been an RN for nearly 30 years. Since childhood, there was never really a question about what she’d be when she grew up.
“Healthcare is the only profession in my family,” says Sally. “My great-grandfather established a hospital in the Philippines. All his sons were doctors. My dad’s siblings are all in medicine, most of my cousins. I can remember my aunt told me that if I went to college, it had to be Nursing.”
Sally knows she made the right choice. She calls it a passion, not a career—one that requires heart, not just skill. Sally does have a “super-skill,” though.
“They call me the IV Queen. I’ve been really good at it ever since I started nursing,” says Sally. “Not long ago a doctor called me to say he’d give me a one-year supply of Starbucks if I’d come down to assist because he couldn’t get the IV started on a patient who was coding.”
Not that Sally would ever say no to helping. Her husband says her middle name is “Yes” because she’s always available to lend a hand. Lately, she’s been saying yes a lot to her co-workers at Glendora Community Hospital who recently formed their Union to try to bring much needed patient safety improvements. She helped her colleagues get organized and continues to be a leader in their new Union.
“I’m ashamed of the hospital’s reputation,” says Sally. “And yet I work with such great Nurses. Glendora could be a top-quality hospital for this community if the hospital would invest in its nurses. But without the proper training, sufficient staffing levels, and decent wages, our hospital is just a revolving door. New RNs come here to get a little experience and then they leave.”
Sally came to Glendora specifically to help. She could earn more and have better working conditions somewhere else, but a doctor she used to work with said “go to Glendora and help them.”
For Sally, dangerously low staffing levels are the main issue. When Nurses sound the alarm, hospital management will make tiny adjustments here and there, but they never solve the issues. Often, they say they will make a change and then the change never happens.
“For example, a Charge Nurse must not be given their own patient load,” says Sally. “When I’m the Charge, I need to focus on making sure our new RNs are properly trained, that we have the necessary staff and supplies on hand, and that we’re available to respond to emergencies. But management has Charge Nurses take patient loads, in violation of California regulations. I will often start with one patient, but by the end of my shift it’s sometimes three or four.”
It took a crisis the other day to make management finally see why Charge Nurses should not have patients. Sally was on duty in the ICU and had a patient that she couldn’t leave. During her shift, a patient coded in another part of the hospital and since Sally wasn’t free to fill a “code blue” role, the hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer (an administrative position, not a bedside Nurse) was forced to respond to the code herself. Suddenly there were cries of “Where’s Sally?! Where’s Sally?!” because they were simply not adequately prepared to respond to the crisis.
“There wasn’t another ICU Nurse available to watch my patient, so an RN without the proper training was forced to fill in while I ran over to that part of the hospital to run the code procedures,” says Sally. “I had to start the IV myself to see if we could revive the patient. I mean it’s very flattering to hear my colleagues say ‘thank God Sally is here’—but what I really want is an end to the chaos. Management was so shocked by this incident that they claimed to see the light and agreed that Charge Nurses must be freed up to fulfill Charge duties, including rapid response. But they still haven’t fully implemented the change.”
Sally also says that management does not follow California regulations regarding which Nurses can safely cover shifts in units other than their own specialty. For example, RNs from the hospital’s Med/Surg unit are being sent to substitute in ICU.
“They don’t even know how to set up a drip,” says Sally. “It’s so dangerous for the patients! And it puts those RNs at risk of losing their license. No Nurse should be sent to a unit where they don’t have the necessary training. That’s just adding to the chaos.”
Nurses like Sally used their strength in numbers this year to introduce legislation designed to strengthen enforcement of California’s nurse-to-patient ratio regulations. Read more about California Senate Bill 227 here.