Hawaii UPR Walks the Talk for Unit-Based Teams
Nurse puts 20 years of union stewardship to work for LMP
Marina Robinson walks her beat like a cop or a reporter. Robinson, an RN for 28 years, drives across town in Honolulu each week to spend quality time in a hospital where she is not a nurse.
At the Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center in Honolulu, Robinson’s “patients” are six unit-based teams (UBTs).
“My days are set each week when I come in to see these teams,” said Robinson, who works half-time as a triage nurse a few miles north of the medical center at KP’s Honolulu clinic and half-time as a Union Partnership Representative (UPR). (The LMP Trust pays her for her UPR time.)
Robinson, a native of Micronesia who has been with KP Hawaii since the early 1990s, checks in regularly with both union and management co-leads, determinedly tracking them down in the medical center if need be.
This is what it means to be a UPR.
So what exactly is a UPR?
UPRs are experts in all facets of the Labor Management Partnership. Many are senior leaders in their local unions. Robinson has spent 17 years with the Hawaii Nurses Association (HNA), OPEIU Local 50. She is currently secretary of HNA, but has also been a steward and a board member.
She works regularly with three teams on the medical-surgical floors and three in the ambulatory area. The two co-leads for the Ambuatory Surgery Recovery (ASR) unit-based team—Avis Yasumura, RN, a staff nurse, and Janet Lundberg, RN, nurse manager for the ASR, Gastrointestinal and Diagnostic Imaging departments at Moanalua—are working on the measurements of their team’s efforts to manage the increased volume of patients in gastrointestinal recovery with limited staff and beds. Robinson helped them prepare a report for the LMP Council on their most recent test of change. Working with teams around data and measurement is a large part of her job.
“I have not just my own co-lead (to rely on), I can call Marina,” Lundberg said.
Robinson is very goal-oriented, but does not give orders to her teams.
“I ask: How will it improve things on the floor, such as patient satisfaction, productivity, waste and work flow?” she said. “I want them to come up with ideas, not me giving them ideas on what to do.”
Learning on the job
Robinson, like many other UPRs, is a trained facilitator and is well-versed in performance improvement methodology. She sits on a myriad of committees and sponsors her teams.
“I am learning every day about the work I do and try to come with something that will improve my own ways of doing things, especially with the teams,” she said.
“I learn to be patient because this job can be deadly if you have high blood pressure,” she said with a laugh.
Her two college-age children live in the mainland and when she’s not visiting them, she swims and gardens to relax in her precious free time.
Representing the partnership’s newest union
Robinson’s duties include ongoing education on the LMP for the 800 HNA members who work at Kaiser Permanente, who joined the partnership in 2008. She’ll talk with other KP workers in the two other Hawaii unions that are not in LMP, too, if they are inclined to listen.
Many nurses in Hawaii are just learning what it means to be in a partnership where they have a seat at the table with their managers in UBTs. Some, Robinson said, are still getting used to the idea.
“They have a say in what they need to see in their day-to-day work,” she said, “and they can absolute say it in front of the management.”
For Robinson, the change within HNA is unmistakable.
“Our members are happy to see someone coming to their units on a regular basis, which never happened before,” she said. “They get to ask whatever questions they have about HNA, the LMP or other things pertaining to union issues.”
HNA members are making fewer complaints about the job and the union—and their service to KP members and patients is visibly better, she said.
“My hopeful thinking for the partnership in the next 10 years is that it will absolutely come to a full bloom in engagement on both sides: management and labor,” she said.