Thoughts on Yesterday’s MNA Picket at BWH

February 2, 2023

Dear Colleagues:

As you may be aware, yesterday, the Massachusetts Nurses Association held a picket in front of Brigham & Women’s Hospital, with a focus on staffing, Magnet Accreditation, and conflicts between the bargaining unit and management.

As I enter my final months in a role I have treasured, I don’t want every communication I send to be about union issues.  But I am taking this important step because I want to build upon our outstanding culture that is respectful and collaborative, that values RNs and lifts up their voice, and includes the perspective of direct care nurses in management decisions.  I would hate to see that replaced with conflicts, pickets and divisions; that is not who we are.  And I hope you agree that is not who we want to be.

Observing yesterday’s picket, I was troubled to see that the complex staffing challenges, shared focus on quality, and maximizing nurse engagement were reduced to slogans and shouting.  It has always been my belief that the best way to address issues – even when challenges seem bigger than ever– is through collaborative and constructive problem solving.

There is no hospital in the country that has an easy answer to staffing shortages, unionized or not.  This is certainly true in our market, where every hospital in the city has open positions and is using staffing agencies to fill gaps.  Even at BWH, where the MNA has had a presence for decades, these issues exist. Indeed, according to the MNA, BWH staff filed 519 unsafe staffing reports last year alone.  With that in mind, I ask you to consider whether the MNA’s “promise” to fix staffing is something it can truly fulfill.

In terms of our own staffing, I have been appreciative of our nurses suggestions and feedback, which have directly informed the tools we use (including wage adjustments, support for resource nurses, and vigorous hiring efforts) to address this issue.  We’ve had the flexibility to make these changes in a timely fashion, something that is clearly not happening in hospitals where confrontation, not collaboration, is the primary communications model.  We still have more to do in this area, and I know that Jane Foley will continue to be a champion of strategies that allow us to achieve optimal staffing.

Creating a voice for our nurses is an incredibly important part of our culture.  We strive to do that in informal ways – from leadership rounding on the floors to the daily huddles where   leaders gather to hear about and address a variety of issues in real time.  But we also see the benefit of more formal structures that bring the staff nurse perspective to the table.  As part of our journey to excellence and Magnet accreditation, we have built a strong Professional Governance model, led by direct care nurses at both the unit and central levels.  These councils have implemented critical investments such as support for certification, transitions to practice, mentoring and formal recognition such as the RESA and Daisy awards.

Jane and I see incredible value in these councils, joining their meetings and asking co-chairs attend the monthly Nurse Executive Council meeting to hear directly how we can update and improve our practice.  This is something Pete Healy has also embraced, going to central council meetings over the past several months.  We thank every nurse who contributes to this process.  We know that our organization is stronger because your experience shapes the way we operate.

I thank you for all that you contribute to our organization.  As always, please reach out with questions or concerns.


Marsha L. Maurer, DNP, RN, FAONL, FAAN
Senior Vice President, Patient Care Services
Cynthia and Robert J. Lepofsky Chief Nursing Officer