“My journey to medicine wasn’t one that I chose,” said Fred Powell, MD, PhD, a PGY 3 in Anesthesiology at Boston Medical Center. When he was 10 years old and living in North Carolina, his father suffered a heart attack. “I pretty much grew up in a hospital environment from that day forward,” Dr. Powell said.
Both his experiences with his father and his interest in biology in school solidified Powell’s dream of going into medicine. Dr. Powell has been a leader on CIR’s contract negotiations team for the past two years. Through his involvement in CIR, he has come to recognize the opportunities that a resident union can provide in helping to create physician leaders.
“I would say to residents who don’t have a union, ‘what would you be doing as a group, how would you negotiate, how would you bargain?’ CIR gives us the chance to develop relationships with leadership in the hospital and be able to work with them to problem-solve and troubleshoot issues that come up with residents, Dr. Powell said.”
During his first round of negotiations, Dr. Powell was often frustrated with the response from hospital administration and the constant give and take that seemed to be chipping away at residents’ demands. Like many at the negotiation table for the first time he wanted “all or nothing.” However, after time what he gained professionally was an understanding of how hospitals systems work.
“Administration sees you as a leader when you’re able to bring solutions to the table. It’s always good to come up with solutions for issues, and when a body of residents and hospital staff work together it creates better experiences for patientsthat’s ultimately what we care about.”
BMC members have used their labor-management meetings to build relationships and create systems that improve workflow. One of their recent victories was establishing pager etiquette for residents. Though it may seem a trivial problem, explained Dr. Powell, ancillary and nursing staff were misusing the pager system and not providing enough adequate information to help the workflow of residents. “These situations can be frustrating but by working together we just implemented a new protocol to everyone’s benefit,” he said.
For Dr. Powell being a part of CIR has provided the opportunity to get involved in the issues the hospital is facing and in the lives of his patients. “Our CIR organizer is always working with me and keeping me involved. She took my energy that was very unfocused and helped focused it.”
He is also active in minority physician recruitment and programming at BMC through a collaboration developed over 30 years ago by the union and the hospital, and he plans on continuing to strengthen and build relationships with BMC administration through labor-management meetings.