Nurses Union, UC Medical Center Tussle After Discipline Over Facebook Live Post

The nurses union calls the firing of its president and reprimand of its vice president by UC Medical Center "illegal." But the hospital says the disciplinary actions were a matter of patient safety.

University of Cincinnati Medical Center - Photo: Courtesy of UC
Photo: Courtesy of UC
University of Cincinnati Medical Center

The union representing nurses at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center is crying foul after its president was fired and its vice president received a reprimand over a post on Facebook live made in April.

But the hospital says the disciplinary actions were necessary and proper because one of the nurses involved in the Facebook video left patients without authorization to film the message.

Registered Nurses Association of University of Cincinnati Medical Center President Michelle Thoman and Vice President Jennifer Donaldson took to Facebook live April 18 to give an update on negotiations with the hospital around staff recruitment and retention.

According to a statement by the union, the hospital fired Donaldson and issued a final reprimand to Thoman last week over that video post. The union says Donaldson, who has been a nurse for 28 years, and Thoman, who has been at UC for five years, had no prior disciplinary actions on their records.

The union called the disciplinary actions "illegal" and said they "aimed to silence nurses" speaking out about staff shortages and other issues at the hospital.

"The nurses and our leadership have worked tirelessly with the Medical Center to bring about necessary changes for the safety of patients and nurses alike, and Ms. Thoman and Ms. Donaldson have continued to lead us in advocating for more changes, such as critical staffing, nurse retention and bon-a-fide rest and meal breaks for nurses," a statement released June 14 by the RNA reads. "The Medical Center’s actions to stop our momentum is particularly alarming because our advocacy is focused on positive changes to the hospital — the type of changes the Tri-State Area deserves. Patients of UCMC deserve the confidence that they are receiving the best care possible."

But UC Medical Center calls RNA's statements "false." UC Health didn't name Donaldson specifically in a response to RNA's statement, but said "the nurse in question" left patients in UC Medical Center's Labor and Delivery area to film the April video in a hospital break room. 

RNA is a local union associated with the Ohio Nurses Association. An agreement brokered last summer between the medical center and the union won UC Medical Center's 1,700 nurses higher rates of pay and changes to the hospital's on-call system, which had been a source of complaints. That agreement expires in 2021. 

The union is demanding that the hospital reverse the disciplinary action against the two nurses and give Donaldson her job back. 

"RNA nurses will not back down and we refuse to be silenced," the statement from the union reads.

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