COVID, Contracts & Strike Votes | 12/23/2021 15:40

How One Nurse’s Association Found New Ways to Connect in Trying Times

New Challenges, New Solutions

In the spring of 2020, Heather Hemingway, RN, BSN—a new board executive of Huntington Hospital Nurses Association (HHNA) in Huntington, New York—had a big problem: How to communicate effectively with a disconnected, frontline membership… as it headed into contract negotiations… during a pandemic.

Hemingway explains, “We were using quarterly newsletters and landline call banks to connect with our membership, but the majority of our members are 20-40 years old. They weren’t reading mail, forget about answering a landline.”

To reach members in realtime and mobilize their base, Hemingway and the HHNA board quickly determined that the nurses needed to embrace new technology.

Flexible Communication Is Key

Hemingway did a lot of research before the HHNA board chose to go with the Union Strong app. Hemingway saw other unions who were tied solely to one communication platform or used just email. She knew the nurses needed to be more flexible.

Nursing is not a desk job. To reach members in the moment, it has to be on their personal smartphones. Hemingway notes, “The app has been a tremendous help in this way. It grabs [our members’] attention and quickly delivers a message, and the flexibility of what we can deliver is huge.”

How (and When!) Nurses Use Union Strong

HHNA has been using Union Strong to deliver information about everything from meeting times and locations, to job postings, to strike vote notifications, reminders, and results.

Due to COVID-19, HHNA has not had a traditional general meeting in more than a year and a half. Only 15 members can meet within the hospital at a time, so HHNA uses the app to inform members of staggered meetings and sends out push notification reminders: “Come down at 7:00 am to the meeting. Come down at 12:00 pm…” Hemingway notes, “The app has been very helpful in getting us through this by getting information to our members.”

Hemingway believes that the best time to deliver info through the app is during a shift change. She schedules items and push notifications to be delivered right as the nurses are coming off shifts and checking their phones. “I love knowing when the message will be delivered and seeing them check their phones as the pushes go through,” she says. “It’s reassuring to know that the members are actually seeing our messages and hopefully sharing with other members.”

The Results?

The HHNA membership has expressed appreciation for receiving messages more quickly than in the past. “They love the feature that takes them right to a website page instead of them having to hunt for it,” says Hemingway. “This is so helpful for job postings in particular.”

Hemingway has found the app easy to administer. She says, “The biggest challenge for us was getting people on board, but Union Strong support helped us.” HHNA used multiple channels to promote the app and now has about 60% of its membership on board. During contract negotiations they said, “If you want to vote, you need to get the app. It’s how we’re keeping you updated.”

The HHNA is relieved that they avoided a strike this year and gives credit to the app for helping them through the contract negotiation process. “Because of COVID, all the ways that we meet and connect as a union have changed,” says Hemingway. “The app came along just in time to help us be flexible and quick with our communication. Without a doubt, we are so thankful we have Union Strong. We are more connected because of it.”

What Ifs & What’s Next

If the HHNA had gone on strike, it planned on using the app’s HereNow feature to manage strike communications by sending important updates to members based on their proximity to key locations.

Hemingway says HHNA is also looking forward to new features and releases from Union Strong, “At the halls where we’re voting, the WiFi is spotty. The ability to post from our phones will be key!” The Association is excited to hear that this feature is on the horizon.

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