The Most Useless Form on the Planet

Imagine this: you’ve had the shift from hell, no beds, every other patient is moments away from seeing Jesus/Allah/Buddha and to top it off, the department is down three nurses, another nurse is transporting the multisystem trauma downtown, and you feel really think working conditions were unsafe for both you and more importantly, your patients. So you go to your unit union rep — in the case of most Ontario nurses, from the Ontario Nurses Association — and she says, No problem. Just fill out this document, the Professional Responsibility Workload Form, in either Official Language, in quadruplicate, and all will be well.

Oh, I forgot. Here’s page 2:

So it’s 0730, you’re coming off nights from the shift in which you thought you might finally go postal, and you’re union rep is telling you to fill out this form. The chance of it getting completed? Is zero too high an estimate? Here’s a hint: there’s a four-page guide on how to effectively fill out the form.* And if the form is actually filled out? The union (I think) is supposed to meet with  management to discuss the (completed) form, but in truth I have never heard of any outcome of such a meeting, or if in fact such meetings exist. One suspects when the union raises workload issues with management — encompassing such items as competency, patient safety, you know, important things — management says, “It is what it is,” and with a nod and a wink the union goes off to collect its membership dues. In short, we’ve filled out these forms for as long as I’ve been a nurse, and nothing has ever changed as a result.

It seems, to me anyway, that the Professional Responsibility Workload Form is a classic example of appearing to address an issue, while in fact doing absolutely nothing. Doing so lets both the union and managers off the hook for the deteriorating quality of nursing work life. I don’t think I am being unduly harsh. There is a distinct lack of accountability and transparency around these forms, and it’s symptomatic of a general complacency within ONA’s leadership about issues affecting front line nurse. Given that ONAs 57,000 members each pay nearly a thousand dollars annually in dues, you think someone would come up with a better process to watch workload issues.


*The statement on the top of the guide made me laugh out loud:

“ONA members indicate it is important and worth the work to complete Professional Responsibility Workload (PRW) Report forms.”

I am not very clear which ONA members the union leadership was speaking to. Not anyone, I’m guessing, from an emerg.

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  1. #1 by Beth Boynton, RN, MS on Friday 24 June 2011 - 1218

    Ya know, I appreciate this post. My values are often in line w/ Labor Union efforts, but the process is not for me. It feels more like a power struggle than anything else.

    I’d much rather facilitate respectful conversations between leadership and staff. I have this crazy belief that when nurses speak up respectfully and leaders listen respectfully, we’ll be able collaborate effectively. THIS is what will lead us to more equitable, safer, more cost-effective care AND more rewarding/healthier carreers!


  2. #2 by Canuck on Sunday 26 June 2011 - 2112

    Well said! The last thing I want to complete at the end of a hectic shift is that damn form!

  3. #3 by CC on Tuesday 05 July 2011 - 1140

    I fill them out anyway.

    I was told that the effectiveness of this form is….if not resolved, it would go to the hospital board which is a public forum….and apparently the hospitals don’t want any of these complaints known….so however burdensome the process is….it’s all we’eve got.

    Sad, I know.

  1. turban

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