NEW YORK NURSE: June/July 2012
Q.: When should I file a Protest of Assignment?*
A.: You should protest any assignment you believe is unsafe for patients. This could be an understaffing problem or an assignment that you feel is outside your personal scope of confidence. The protest must be documented to help protect you if there is an untoward patient event. It allows for shared responsibility between you and the management of your facility.
NYSNA created the Protest of Assignment form as a communication and documentation tool for registered nurses. If you are not represented by NYSNA for collective bargaining at your facility, be sure to speak to your supervisor about your concerns and carefully document any patient care situation you believe is unsafe. The POA form can be used as a guideline.
If you are a member of a NYSNA bargaining unit and believe that an assignment is unsafe for patients, you should:
Speak to the individual who created the assignment. There may be an alternative solution that is safer and within your abilities.
If a solution cannot be found within a reasonable amount of time, speak to the charge nurse, head nurse, or supervisor.
If this is unsuccessful, a POA form should be filled out, with one copy kept by the employee, one copy given to the supervisor, and one copy sent to NYSNA. You should also notify your nursing representative that you have filed a POA.
The most important reason for filling out a POA form is that it may decrease your individual liability if an untoward incident should occur. The form proves you notified the administration that, in your professional opinion, the assignment was unsafe.
In addition, NYSNA carefully tracks POAs filed by members who belong to NYSNA local bargaining units. Nursing representatives and executive committees may share the patient care problems described in the POAs at labor management meetings, nurse practice committee meetings, or staffing meetings. POAs have been used in contract negotiations to promote safe staffing ratios.
NYSNA maintains a database of aggregate POA information that is used to identify and track patient care problems in New York and New Jersey. The results are shared with legislators, regulatory agencies, and the media to help them understand the issues facing nurses today.
NYSNA has a published a manual, “Nurses’ Rights and Responsibilities,” which summarizes what to do in unsafe patient care situations. NYSNA members can access it from the “Members Only” section of the NYSNA Web site (www.nysna.org) or contact the Education, Practice and Research Program at 800.724.NYRN, ext. 282.
*POA forms can be found online: http://www.nysna.org/images/pdfs/union/POA.pdf
This is a sample of the questions NYSNA’s experts answer each day. The advice given is specific for the situation described and may not be applicable generally. If you have questions about your own work setting, it is recommended that you contact your NYSNA representative or the Education, Practice, and Research Program, 11 Cornell Road, Latham, New York 12110-1499 or call 800.724.NYRN, ext. 282.